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Cornell University Library 
DF 81.W57 

Greek oligarchies their character and o 

3 1924 028 258 204 

Cornell University 

The original of tliis book is in 
tine Cornell University Library. 

There are no known copyright restrictions in 
the United States on the use of the text. 











New York: G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS 

London: METHUEN & CO. 


A-( 1 ^^7^? 


THE following dissertation was awarded the Hare 
Prize in 1894. The pressure of other work obliged 
me to postpone the preparation of it for the press until 
last year. 

For the study of Oligarchic Constitutions in Greece 
there are no adequate materials. No oligarchic state has 
left us any historical literature ; nor have we the record 
of the internal working of any oligarchy : in this inquiry, 
as in most branches of Greek history, we realise how little 
we know of any Greek states other than Athens. Our 
conception of oligarchic government, its character and its 
method, cannot fail to be partial and incomplete. If we 
except Aristotle's masterly treatise on political ideas and 
political forms, information on oligarchic constitutions is 
scattered over a very wide field, extending from the 
Lyrical poets to Plutarch. Inscriptions yield less that is 
valuable than we should expect or desire. 

The lack of positive knowledge induced me to devote 
the first chapter to an examination of the place occupied 
by Oligarchy and Aristocracy in the Greek classification 
of constitutions. By a study of the definitions, which 
are, like the political terminology of the Greeks, too often 
vague and uncertain, we are able to arrive at the im- 
pression produced on the minds of the Greeks by the 
different governments, and thus we catch a reflection of 
their real character. In the second and third chapters I 


have briefly discussed the causes of constitutional change 
and traced the development of constitutions, in order to 
show the place occupied by oligarchy in this process. 
Two Appendices deal with some problems of early A- 
thenian history. In the fourth chapter the varieties of 
Oligarchy are discussed, and the last chapter is devoted to 
the organisation of oligarchic government. It is followed 
by an Appendix on the revolution of the Four Hundred 
at Athens. 

Of modern books, I have made constant use of the 
second volume of Gilbert's Handbuch der griechischen 
Staatsalterthiimer, which contains an invaluable collection 
of material. Mr Newman's Introduction to the Politics 
of Aristotle I have found most useful and suggestive. I 
have cited in my notes the other modern works to which 
I am indebted. 

In preparing the work for press it is my pleasure to 
acknowledge most gratefully the help of Mr W. Wyse, 
of Trinity College, one of the adjudicators for the prize, 
who put many valuable notes at my disposal, and the 
kindness of Mr R. A. Neil, of Pembroke College, and of 
Mr J. W. Headlam of King's College, who read my 
proofs and gave me the benefit of many criticisms and 


Pembroke College, Cambeidge. 
February 3, 1896. 

[In the citations of Aristotle's Politics I have followed the text of 
Susemihl's small edition, as well as his numbering of the books. The 
first volume of Mr Newman's Politics is cited as 'Newman, Introduction.' 
Eeferences to Dr Gilbert's Handbuch are to the second German edition.] 



The Classification of Constitutions : the Claims 
AND Character of Oligarchy. 


1. The Popular Classification of Constitutions .... 1 

2. Classification of Constitutions by the Philosophers ... 6 

3. Oligarchy in a general sense . 15 

4. Oligarchy in a special sense 20 

5. Polity 22 

6. Aristocracy 24 

7. Aristocracy, Oligarchy and Polity 30 

8. The basis of Oligarchy and Democracy 31 

9. The character of Democracy 33 

10. The character of Oligarchy . 35 

11. Material claims of the Oligarch 38 

12. Moral claims of the Oligarch 39 


The Causes of Constitutional Change. 

13. The Variety of Greek Constitutions 45 

14. The Causes determining the form of a Constitution ... 46 

15. Changes of Constitutions effected from within .... 48 

16. Changes of Constitutions effected from without ... 61 

17. Constitutions in the Colonies 53 

18. The influence of Athens and Sparta 54 

19. The admiration for the Spartan Constitution . ■ . . .57 

20. Lawgivers 59 

The Historical Development of Constitutions. 

21. The origin of Constitutions 62 

22. The Heroic Monarchy 63 

23. Transition from Monarchy to Aristocracy .... 68 

24. Changes of Government incident on the Establishment of 

Aristocracy 71 




25. Transition from Aristocracy to Oligarchy .... 72 

26. Development of Constitutions in the fifth century ... 83 

27. Development of Constitutions in the fourth century. . . 85 
Appendix A. The formation of the united Athenian state . 89 
Appendix B. The Athenian yiv-q and their importance in the 

early Constitution 95 


Varieties of Oligarchy. 

28. Principles of Classification 105 

29. Aristotle's Division of Oligarchies 107 

30. Aristocracy of Birth and Land Ill 

31. Aristocracy of ' Original Settlers ' 115 

32. Aristocracy based on Conquest 117 

33. Aristocracy of the Kingly Family 120 

34. Aristocracy of Heads of Families 122 

35. ' Dynastic ' Government 124 

36. Oligarchy of Wealth 126 

37. Oligarchy of The Knights' and of 'The Hoplites'. . . 132 

38. Aristocracies and Oligarchies of Fixed Number . . . 134 


Organisation of Oligarchic Government. 

39. General Principles of Oligarchic Government .... 139 

40. Powers of Magistrates, etc., in Oligarchies . . . ". 142 

41. Appointment and Qualification of Magistrates .... 144 

42. Tenure and Responsibility of Magistrates 149 

43. Single Magistrates and Boards of Magistrates .... 152 

44. Constitution of the Council 157 

45. Powers of the Council 161 

46. Subdivisions of the Council 163 

47. The Assembly 165 

48. Judicial Affairs 170 

49. Tribal divisions 177 

50. Class divisions in Aristocracies and Oligarchies . . . 181 

51. Summary 187 

Appendix C. The oligarchic revolution in Athens : the pro- 
visional and the projected constitution .... 192 

Index 208 


The Classification of Constitutions: the Claims 
AND Character of Oligarchy. 

§ 1. The Popular Classification of Constitutions. 

The genius of the Greeks, which has given them a 
sure and lasting preeminence as political inventors and 
political theorists, made them conscious at a comparatively 
early date of the variety of governments under which they 
lived. The ruling element, as Aristotle says, must be one 
man, or a few men, or the multitude': and this distinction, 
which has served ever since as the basis of classification, 
is recorded for the first time by Pindar in language that 
is neither technical nor precise^ In his words ' tyranny, 
the ravening host and the wise wardens of the city' 
denote monarchy, democracy and oligarchy : and the poet 
reveals his preference for the government of the few by 
the choice of the epithets that he employs'. Thus from 

' Pol. iii 6 1279 a 25 -iroKlTev/m 5' icrrl ri laipiov tQv irAXewK, ivdyxr) 
5' elpat K^piov ^ ^va rj d\iyovs ri Toiis ttoXXoiJs. 

^ Pyth. 2 86 ^K wdfTa Si vbti.ov | Trapd rvpavviSi, xiiirln-av i 

Xd/Spos ffrpards, \ X'«"'o>' irSXiv ol (ro<f)ol TripiuvTi. Homer II. ii 204 oiK 
dyaBbv TroKvKoipavlri' eU Kolpavos IffTw, gives US the first reflection on 

5 The political application of the commonest moral epithets is found 
in Theognis, although he does not expressly moralize on forms of govern- 


the first we find constitutional forms and political parties 
described in moral terms, and this tendency did much to 
confuse the political terminology of the Greeks*. The use 
of such terms could never be altogether consistent, for the 
advocates of oligarchy and democracy used identical phrases 
of praise and abuse, and applied them, as might suit their 
purpose or occasion, to describe opposite parties and dif- 
ferent forms of government'. 

There is no rhetorical commonplace so constantly em- 
ployed as the comparison of the three constitutions or the 
contrast of the principles of oligai-chy and democracy : it 
was a universal topic with the rhetors and sophists, who 
taught their pupils the stock descriptions of each consti- 
tution, and directed them to adapt their epithets and suit 
their conclusions to the taste of their audience". By the 
time of Herodotus this criticism of constitutions was 
already in fashion, and the scientific terms of monarchy, 
oligarchy and democracy had been introduced''. The his- 

* It will be seen below how inconsistent and ambiguous the use of 
many political terms is. 

^ It would be beside my purpose to discuss this subject here: but 
there is abundant evidence in the orators that the epithets and qualities, 
which are supposed to have acquired a special political application in the 
mouths of oligarchs, were employed in an absolutely opposite way by 
speakers wishing to say pleasant things to a democracy. Instances 
could be quoted of eiivoixLa, eira^La and auKppoirii'T] (the particular virtues 
of oligarchies) attributed to the democratic constitution: while irovripla, 
fioxSripla, ii^pts and the like are supposed to be innate characteristics of 

8 Examples of this practice are quoted in the text: it is described in 
Isocr. xii 111 roiis toloilitov^ eTretSctp aXcrOwvTcu rods tSttov^ TrpoKareLKTjfj.' 
fi4ifous..Jirl Tbv X6701' oXfxai Tp4\pea6ai rhv irepl tlov iroKiTeiCiv. 

' Thus /j-owapxiv, rvpavvls, iXiyapxlri occur in the debate in iii 80 — 82. 
He uses Srjixos there to describe democracy : but in vi 43 SrnioKparlri is 


torian could not deny himself the pleasure of discussing 
the question, which was then, perhaps for the first time, 
agitating the minds of the Greeks, the question of the 
best form of government^. The debate, attributed with 
a grotesque inappropriateness to the three Persian nobles, 
is nothing else than a representation of Hellenic institu- 
tions and a reflection of Hellenic ideas'. We find that 
Herodotus introduces moral qualities in his definitions", 
but they show a considerable power of scientific analysis 
and include many of the characteristics essential to the 
three constitutions". 

Thucydides as far outstrips Herodotus in the science 
of politics as in the art of history. He invented for 
himself the canons of his art and the principles of his 
philosophy, and having no predecessor he may have un- 
consciously formed the design of his work on the model of 
the Greek drama. Thus the narrative, which we may 
liken to the recitals of the messengers or the other episodes 
of tragedy, is interrupted, while the orator performing the 
function of the chorus introduces into the discussion of 

8 Cf . Newman, Introduction p. 85. ' The quest of ' a best constitution ' 
was a tradition of political inquiry in Greece. The question was ap- 
parently first raised by practical statesmen, and it was thus perhaps that 
Herodotus came to imagine a group of Persian grandees discussing the 
claims of monarchy, oligarchy and democracy.' 

° The debate, as a whole, is unreal and impossible, but the character- 
istics attributed to the constitutions are entirely Greek and un-Oriental. 

10 Thus BKiyapxlri is defined as avSpGiv iplaruv iixCKli) (practically Aris- 
totle's definition of dpiaroKpaHa) : KaKbrits is regarded by Darius as inevit- 
able in a democratic government. 

11 Thus Iffom/da (ef. Thuo. iii 82) is attributed to democracy, and 
Otanes says of it 5raX(fi /iiv apx^s oipx"i i'lreidwov Sf (ipxV ^X"i povXei/Mra 
Se irdi/TO, is ri Kowiv dvaipipei. The description of tyranny is thoroughly 
in accord with Greek sentiment. 



particular events the searching analysis of motive, the 
masterly application of general principles, which make 
Thucydides an author for all time^^. In the speeches, 
moreover, there is a tragic irony, a foreknowledge of the 
catastrophe which reminds us again of the analogy. The 
splendid paaegyric of Athens put into the mouth of Peri- 
cles is followed without a break by the narrative of the 
plague — the first step in the downfall of Athens. The 
assertion of the empire of force at Melos and the warnings 
of the Melian speakers prepare the way for that master- 
piece of tragic narrative, the story of the disaster in Sicily. 
Hence though the speeches are often not inconsistent with 
the character of the speaker and are appropriate enough 
to the circumstances of the occasion'^, they may be re- 
garded rather as containing the reflections of Thucydides 
himself than as the actual words or thoughts of the orator 
to whom they are attributed. Thucydides is nowhere 
concerned with the comparison of the three constitutions, 
but he shows that he has carried the analysis of constitu- 
tional forms much further than his predecessors. His 
classification is more accurate, varieties of the main types 
are distinguished", and the characteristics of the different 
governments are drawn in more detail and with greater 
precision '*. 

12 Thucydides rarely inserts his own comment on events. The most 
noteworthy instance is the reflection on the a-rdcns at Coreyra (iii 82 — 3). 

13 Thucydides himself says (i 22) us d' av iSbKom i/j.ol 'iKacToi. irepl twv 
dei TapbvTOiv rit, 84oifTa ix6Xia'r direlv, ixop^vcp oVt iyy&rara t^s ^v/itrdcnjs 
yvwfji.7js Twv aXTjdws Xex^^Twv, ovtcos dfnjrat. 

" In i 13 Tvpamides and TrarpiKal ^airiXeiai are distinguished. In iii 
62 dXiyapxta Icriyo/ios and Swaarda are distinguished. 

15 Cf. the descriptions of the Athenian democracy (ii 38) and of the 
moderate democracy at Syracuse (vi 89). 


In these respects he anticipates Aristotle, and it is 
clear that the philosopher to a great extent follows the 
historian both in his phraseology and in his general 
descriptions. To Thucydides the Peloponnesian war was 
a conflict of political principles, a duel between oligarchy 
and democracy'^: it was even more particularly a trial of 
strength between the free and popular constitution of 
Athens and the rigid, military aristocracy of Sparta. 
Hence he is haunted by the antithesis afforded by these 
two states ; and it is scarcely an exaggeration to say that 
there are few speeches in which traces of this antithesis 
cannot be found, while it is emphasized or implied on 
occasions when the introduction of the contrast is in- 
appropriate to the speaker and irrelevant". 

To continue the examination of the popular classifica- 
tion : Thrasymachus in Plato's Republic refers to the three 
ordinary constitutions under the names of tyranny, aris- 
tocracy and democracy". Isocrates enumerates them and 
further differentiates them by their ethical qualities — a 
distinction to which I refer below'". Aeschines introduces 
the comparison in order to draw conclusions in favour of 
the fairness and good order of democracy^". Demosthenes 

18 Of. especially iii 82 1. 

" The contrast of the character of the two states is natural and 
avowed in the speech of the Corinthians (i 68 — 71) and in that of Archi- 
damus (i 80 — 85). In the praise of Athens by Pericles Sparta serves as 
a foil to her great rival (ii 35 ff., see especially chapters 37, 39, 40). The 
contrast does not seem so relevant in the mouth of Cleon (iii 37 — 40), 
but it is obviously implied though not avowed ; for Cleon is made to 
repeat the description of the Spartans given by the Corinthians and 
Archidamus. Lastly, the comparison is made by Nicias (vi 11). 

18 i 338 D. 

1' xii 132 — 3. [Lys.] vi 30 enumerates Sfj/ios, SXtyapxia and ripapvos. 

'" In Timarch. 4. 


mentions all three forms and has much to say about the 
relative merits of democracy and oligarchy''^. 

These instances suffice to show that the threefold 
division of constitutions was generally accepted. 

§ 2. Classification of Constitutions hy the Philosophers. 

The sophistic movement gave a great impetus to the 
criticism of constitutional forms, and the philosophers also 
devoted no little interest to the study of politics. The 
theory of Socrates is preserved for us in the pages of 
Xenophon, the most faithful exponent of his master's 
teaching'. Plato has different schemes in the Republic, 
the Politicus and the Laws', and Aristotle in three passages 
discusses the classification of constitutions'. Of later writers 
Polybius*. Plutarch' and Dion Chrysostom' follow Aristotle 
in the main, with some variation of phraseology. All 
these writers, while distinguishing constitutions by the 
number of those to whom sovereign power is entrusted, 
recognise more than three varieties; and their classifica- 

"^ The three forms are enumerated in xxiii 66. The orator offers us 
a good instance of the commonplace contrast of ohgarchy and democracy > 
for a somewhat frigid passage in which the two forms are compared 
occurs both in xxii 51 — 2 and xxiv 163 — 4. 

1 Mem. iv 6 12. 

2 Rep. V 449 A ; Pol. 291 ff. ; Laws, 710 e. 

2 The scheme in the Rhetoric (i 8 1365) has a great resemblance to 
the scheme in Xenophon, while it differs considerably from that in the 
Politics (iii chs. 6 — 9), wherein Aristotle adopts in the main the classifi- 
cation of Plato in the Politicus. There is a third scheme in the Ethics 
(viii 12 1160) resembling the classification of the Polities with some 
slight variations in the definitions. 

* vi chs. 8 — 10. 5 De unius dom. 3. 

6 iii 45—9. 


tion, in so far as it differs from the popular theory, is 
based primarily on ethical considerations. The classifica- 
tions of Plato and Aristotle must be discussed in some 
detail. The speculations of both writers are intimately 
connected with attempts to construct ideal states on the 
Greek model. Both of them observed the conditions that 
prevailed in the ordinary Greek communities ; neither of 
them conceived of anything beyond the city-state. Even 
Plato's Republic, however impossible of realisation, does 
but depict the government of philosophers on the basis of 
the Lacedaemonian state'. Hence we may often discern 
real institutions underlying the ideal, and the Utopias of 
Plato and Aristotle, in so far as they reflect the political 
theory of the Greeks, have their value in the study of 
actual constitutions. At the same time the introduction 
of the ideal state, as the end of political enquiry, tended 
to divorce the classification of ordinary states from reality. 
To Plato ' the ideal view of politics probably seemed 
the only view worth taking. Politics is to him a more 
concrete sort of Ethics' ' and ' the construction of the ideal 
state is to him more or less an episode in an ethical 
inquiry'.' The ideal state of the Republic embodies a 
constitution for Mars or Saturn, or, as Plato himself says, 
' it exists nowhere on earth, but a pattern of it is laid up 
in heaven""; 'it is suited only for gods or the sons of 
gods".' Real constitutions, when compared with this 
political paradise, can only appear ludicrous perversions of 
justice, and they are estimated fancifully enough in their 

' Jowett, Plato^, V p. xxxviii. 

^ Newman, Introduction p. 486. 

9 16. p. 455. i» Bep. ix 592 A, e. 

11 Laws, V 739 D ; ix 853 o. 


supposed order of deviation from the ideal. Thus 'the 
government of honour,' the description of which is based 
on the Cretan and Lacedaemonian states, ranks first of 
the perversions^^: next comes oligarchy, the government 
of wealth, 'laden with divers evils",' and below these are 
democracy and tyranny. No attempt is made to distin- 
guish the better forms of these constitutions from the 
worse : all are included in the condemnation. 

In the Laws, a work written in all probability within 
the last ten years of Plato's life, when he had realised the 
hopeless impossibility of his ideal, we have his final 
thoughts on politics". His classification of ordinary govern- 
ments is not so clear as in the Republic. In one passage 
monarchy and democracy are ranked as ' mother forms ' 
above other constitutions'^ : in another passage the rule of 
a perfect tyrant is said to be best", and existing govern- 
ments are considered, according as they are capable of 
being transformed into this form'''. He thus ranks them 
in the order of tyranny, monarchy, democracy and oli- 
garchy. It seems that Plato had really changed his 
opinion of democracy and now set it above oligarchy, but 
he is still in irreconcilable hostility to ordinary forms of 
government. They do not deserve the names of 'con- 
stitutions,' they are factions governing without justice in 
the interest of the rulers". The state that is to remedy 
the prevailing defects, if less ideal than the state of the 
Republic, is not more possible 'I It is a government of 

12 Eef. viii 547—8. 

1^ Ih. bii A. It is described in 550 o. 

" Newman, Introduction p. 434, n. 2. 

15 iii 693 D. 16 iv 709 e. " iv 710 e. 

18 iv 715 B. 1' See Jowett, Plato^, v p. xxxvii. 


mixed aristocratic and democratic elements, but Plato 
cannot overcome his distrust of the people. He wishes 
to give the control of the government to a few wise men, 
and to leave to the multitude only such a semblance of 
power as shall soothe their discontent and prevent them 
from being dangerous. 

Plato's description of actual constitutions in the Politi- 
cus is incidentally introduced to show how worthless they 
are in comparison with the rule of the perfect statesman. 
His enumeration is therefore intended to be complete, and 
it is certainly based on far more scientific principles than 
the classification in either of the other works. Starting 
with the criterion of number™ he adds the ideas of force 
and consent (already mentioned in Xenophon's definition 
of monarchy^'), of poverty and wealth"'', of lawlessness and 
respect for law"". These principles serve to divide consti- 
tutions into kingship and tyranny, aristocracy and oli- 
garchy, and the two forms of democracy, both described 
by one name. Of these six governments monarchy and 
aristocracy have the first place, then come the two demo- 
cracies, lastly oligarchy and tyranny. In the Politicus, as 
in the Laws, the philosopher deviates from the order of the 
Republic and gives a preference to democracy over oligarchy. 

Plato, then, adopting the popular classification, adds 
certain ethical considerations, which serve to divide the 
better forms of each type from the worse. 

^ 291 D {fiovapx^i V •^"'6 Twf dXiyuv Swatrreia, 7; toO •jr\T}6ovs dpxri). 

^' Mem. iv 6 12 ^atrCKela is iKbvTwv ruiv avdpibvav /col Kari, vdfiovs; 
Tvpavvls is the opposite. 

'^ It is not easy to see how poverty or wealth would serve to differen- 
tiate one kind of democracy from another. 

^ This principle also appears in Xenophon, I. e. 


Aristotle followed Plato in the division of constitutions 
into six main forms. In the Rhetoric and the Ethics the 
discussion of the subject is incidental and subordinate to 
the main topic, and we may accept the scheme in the 
Politics as representing the more accurate and the more 
mature thought of the philosopher ; the definitions in the 
other works we need only discuss in so far as they differ. 
In the Rhetoric — the earliest of the three works — where 
he argues that the orator must take into account the €07] 
Kal vofiifia of the constitution, he practically adopts the 
classification of Socrates as it is recorded by Xenophon'*. 
Besides the double forms of monarchy and oligarchy he 
only mentions one form of democracy and defines it some- 
what arbitrarily as ' the government in which office is 
assigned by lot.' In the Ethics^^, where he discusses 
varieties of friendship, the six forms of government are 
mentioned with the titles they bear in the Politics''^, but 
with slight variations in the definition. The principles of 
classification, finally adopted by him, lead him to distin- 
guish three ' normal constitutions ' and three ' perversions ' 
or ' corruptions^'.' 

The perversion is distinguished from the normal type 
by a difference of end. In the perversion the rulers rule 

2* Rhet. i 8 1365. The definition of dpurTOKparla corresponds to that 
given by Xenophon (Mem. iv 6 12). I discuss it below § 6. 

^ viii 12 1160. The definition of iroXireia as nfioKpanK'q differs from 
the definition of the Politics. See below § 5. 

28 iii chs. 6—9. 

^ Cf. Eth. I. c. ToXiTeias S' iffrlv eiSt] rpia, t<rai. Si Kal irapeK^dcreis, ohv 
<j)Bopa.l To&ruv. The idea of the 'normal' and the 'perverted' constitu- 
tions had been already suggested by Plato, though he regards all actual 
constitutions as perversions, in comparison with the ideal. Cf. Bep. v 
449 A dpBii TToKiTfta and iiiiaprrnUvai. ; Polit. 302 B ; Laws iv 714 B. 


for their own advantage and govern absolutely : in the con- 
stitution properly so called they rule for the' common good^°. 
Of this distinction we find traces in earlier writers'*. The 
distinction thus drawn between the personal interests of 
the rulers and the common interests of the state is of 
great importance. Kant traced the origin of the state 
' to the antagonism resulting from the fact that men have 
both tendencies to social union and tendencies disruptive 
of it, both general sympathies and private interests™ ' ; and 
the same contrast was noticed by Napoleon III. ' There 
exist,' he said, 'in every country two distinct and often 
contrary interests, general interests and individual interests 
— these may be denominated the permanent and the 
transient interests".' The statesman has no harder pro- 
blem than the reconciliation of particular claims with 
common advantage, and in a practical work on statesman- 
ship, such as is the Politics, Aristotle was right to insist 

^ Pol. iii 6 1279 a 17. In the Ethics I. c. this criterion is applied to 
monarchy (6 /otix yap ripawos rb airi} aviiipipov SKOTet, 6 Se j3o(riXei)s t4 tuv 
apXufiM/uv) and suggested in the description of oligarchy. 

^ Cf. Thuc. iii 82 oi liixpi toS dixalov Kai ry irSXet ^vixiphpov irpoTtOivTes, 
es Si TO iKaTipois irov del tjSov^v Ix"" opifocres ; [Xeu.] De Rep. Ath. 1 13 
oi ToS dLKoiov airois /iAei lioWov ij roO airois (rviuj>ipovTos. The distinction 
is drawn by Plato in the dialogue between Socrates and Thrasymachus 
(Rep. i 338 D and 342 e). Cf. Laws iv 715 b TaiTas...<f>ap.ei/...ovT' etvai 
ToXiTciai ovt' 6p9oii! v6fwvs, oVot fii] ^vfiirdcrris rrjs TriXews hexa toS KoivoO 
iTidi}tsav. Cf. also Isocr. xii 132. 

'" Quoted by Newman, Introduction p. 33. 

'1 See Bes Idees NapoUoniennes (English Translation 1840) p. 21. 
Aristotle is not so precise in hia definition, he does not distinguish the 
temporary and the permanent interests. ' He does not appear to note 
that the rule must be exercised not merely for the common advantage of 
the existing generation, but for the advantage also of the unborn of 
future generations.' (Newman, Introduction p. 252, n. 1.) 


on it. But tlie motive of the ruler scarcely offers a satis- 
factory criterion to determine varieties of constitutions. 
Montesquieu says of Aristotle's definition of monarchy ' he 
makes five species ; and he does not distinguish them by 
the form of constitution, but by things merely accidental, 
as the virtues and vices of the prince; or by things 
extrinsic, such as tyranny usurped or inherited'^' We 
cannot tell a priori what ethical character a constitution 
possesses; governments must be classified in accordance 
with the form of their institutions, not the character of 
their rulers. Moreover the principle leads Aristotle into 
inconsistency '', and he himself seems to have realised its 
inadequacy, for in his detailed account of constitutions he 
applies formal, rather than moral, principles of classifica- 

Aristotle supplies us with another test by defining the 
common advantage to be identical with justice^^; and the 
normal states are those that pursue justice, the perversions 
those that disregard it. If we define justice with Mill as 
'the impartial administration of law,' we arrive at the 
separation of states ruling with due observance of law 
from those which rule absolutely without regard for law^". 

^^ Esprit des Lois, Bk xi § 9. 

^ Thus alavixvriTda, whioli was essentially a government for the com- 
mon good, is classed by Aristotle, Pol. iii 14 1285 a 31, with rvpavvls. 

^ Thus iroXiTela (the ' normal ' democracy) is defined, either as the 
government of those possessing arms, or as a constitution of mixed 
democratic and oligarchic elements. Even dpurTOKparla can be brought 
within formal definitions. See below § 6. 

S5 Pol. iii 12 1282 b 17 ; ib. 13 1283 b 40. Thuc. and [Xen.] also 
identify them. See above n. 29. 

36 Aristotle argues for the supremacy of law (Pol. iii 11 1282 b 2). 
Thrasymachus (in Plato, Rep. i 338 c) defines justice as ri tov KpdrTovos 


This distinction had already been drawn by other writers^, 
and serves to distinguish absolute forms of government 
from constitutional forms, observing equal laws^^ Thus 
tyranny, extreme oligarchy and extreme democracy con- 
tain despotic elements, alien from the idea of law, while 
kingship and the more moderate forms of oligarchy and 
democracy (including aristocracy and ' polity ') are charac- 
terised by respect for law and justice'". 

Another test has to be considered before our classifi- 
cation is complete. A constitution might be mixed, might 
contain elements which were characteristic of more than 
one of the main types of government. 

Such constitutions were warmly praised by the political 
philosophers. The general tendency of constitutional 
development in Greece was towards the intensification of 
oligarchy and democracy, and in the fourth century the 
extreme forms were found almost everywhere^". But in 
the gradual evolution of democracy the constitution passed 
through a stage in which the old aristocracy was tempered 

avjupipov (i.e. the interest of the ruler, not of the state). Plato, Rep. iv 
433 A defines it as rd ain-ov irpdrreLv Kal fz/rj iroXvirpa/ypioveiv (i.e. the correct 
apportionment and performance of special functions). 

37 Thuc. iii 62 contrasts SXiyapxia labvop-os with Swaareia pH] pi-era 
vbp.03v. Cf. Xen. Mem. iv 6 12. 'Sbp.os and differentiate constitu- 
tions in Plato, Politiem 291 e. 

^ The distinction is made clear in Aristotle, Pol. vi 4 1292 a 32 Sirov 
y&p p,T] vbpioi S,pxov(nv, o6k iari TroXireio. Sei yap t6v piv vbptov fipx"" '"'dvTuy, 
Tuv Si Ka9' SKOffTo, t&s apxiis Kal t^v iroKireiav Kplvav. In iii 4 1277 b 9 
i&pxri ToXiTiKi]) and 8 1279 b 16 {dpxv SeffironKri) the two forms are de- 
scribed by the names usually employed. 

" Constitutions according to law are not necessarily normal. The 
basis of government may be bad, and the respect for law will then only 
distinguish degrees of perversion. 

« See chapter u § 27. 


with the new democracy, and for a time a moderate form 
of government was maintained. Thus the Solonian con- 
stitution at Athens was described with universal approval" ; 
and the same consideration will explain much of the 
admiration that was lavished on the institutions of Ly- 
curgus*^ Thucydides departs from his usual attitude of 
absolute impartiality to praise the mixed constitution 
established at Athens in 411^ ; Plato made the ideal state 
of the Laws a mixture of democracy, oligarchy and aristo- 
cracy ; Aristotle devotes a large part of the sixth book to 
the discussion of mixed forms and argues for their greater 
justice and stability". 

This consideration need not cause us to enlarge our 
classification. Although some constitutions like that of 
Solon might involve so even a balance of diverse elements, 
that it would be difficult to define their character, we find 
in most governments some one social element predominant; 
and we are thus able to assign each to one of the ordinary 

To sum up; we may accept in the main Aristotle's 
classification. The ruling element will be one man, or 

«i Of. Ar. Pol. ii 12 1273 b 38; Isoor. xii 131 {SruMKparla ipuTTOKpaHq. 
Xpaniv-q), Plato, Laws iii 698 b. 

^2 The Spartan constitution was regarded as a combination of all other 
forms. See below § 3 nn. 15—20 and of. Isoor. xii 158 (StifioKparla 
apiaTOKparlg. fieniyij,4vri) ; Polyb. vi 10 6. 

43 viii 97 2. 

« Pol. vi 8 1293 b ; i6. 9 1294 a. Cf. ib. 12 1297 a 7 oVv S' &v &/Lewov 
ri TToXirefo /J.ix^v> to(toijt<p liovifiuTipa. Tacitus (Ann. iv 33) took an 
opposite view; 'cunctas nationes aut urbes populus aut primores aut 
siaguU regunt: delecta ex his et consooiata reipublicae forma laudari 
faoilius quam evenire, vel si evenit, baud diuturna esse potest.' Cf. Cic. 
de rep. i 29 45. 


a few men, or the multitude : and this element will either 
rule absolutely, without regard to law, without the par- 
ticipation of other element? in the government, or rule 
constitutionally, with due observance of law, under the 
influence of other elements. This classification was in- 
tended to apply only to the city-state, but though political 
conditions have changed, and nations have taken the place 
of cities as political units, modern political science has 
little or nothing to add to the definitions of Aristotle^. 

§ 3. Oligarchy in a general sense. 

For practical purposes any study of Greek constitutions 
may be limited to those included under the terms oli- 
garchy and democracy, if we use the terms in a general 
sense without implying any, ethical meaning. These, as 
Aristotle himself says, are the constitutions that generally 
prevailed^ and many of the Greeks roughly classified all 
governments as democracies or oligarchies ^ Tyranny was 
not regarded as a constitution, but as a temporary inter- 
ruption of legal rule' : kingship ' was in the whole political 
theory of antiquity only a form of aristocracy resting on 

^ Bluntschli, The Theory of the State p. 311, accepts Aristotle's classi- 
fication, but adds to it 'Ideocraoy' and 'Idolocraoy,' constitutions 'in 
which the supreme power has been attributed to some divine being or to 
an idea. The men who exercised power were regarded as the servants 
and vice-regents of an unseen ruler.' But whatever pretensions may- 
have been put forward, power was actually wielded by one or more men. 
As Bluntschli says, both forms involve the rule of priests. We may 
fairly regard the governments as theocratic monarchies or aristocracies. 

^ Pol. viii 1 1301 b 39 /idXtffra 5t;o yivovrai TroXtretat Sjjfios Kal dXtyapx^a. 

" Cf. Ar. Pol. vi 3 1290 a 15 : popular classification recognised only 
oligarchy (including aristocracy) and democracy (including polity). 

^ lb. vi 8 1293 b 29 did, rb iraffGiv TJKurra Ta&rtjv eXvaf iroKiTetav. 


no separate and independent basis of its own^' In practice 
also this holds good ; for kingship, which is defined as the 
government of willing subjects, requires the consent and 
support of a class of nobles. The rise of aristocracies in 
Greece involved the transfer of supreme power from the 
king to the nobles, but the king was in many states 
retained as the nominal head of the constitution^. Hence 
it comes that Aristotle, leaving out of view the monarchies 
in the semi-barbarous and backward states of Greece, 
regards kingship merely as a life magistracy". No one 
would have thought of calling the Spartan constitution a 
kingship, because it had two hereditary generals who held 
office for life. 

Classing kingship, therefore, with aristocracy and 
omitting tyranny from consideration we have only left 
the governments of the few and of the many: oligarchy 
and aristocracy on the one hand and democracy and polity 
on the other. Polity (which is discussed more fully below) 
denotes either a moderate popular government or a govern- 
ment of mixed oligarchic and democratic elements. It 
thus forms a link between oligarchy and democracy, and 
in some constitutions the fusion of these elements is so 

* Henkel, Studien zur Geschichte der griechischen Lehre vom Staat, 
p. 57. Cf. Austin, Jurisprudence Lect. vi. 'Limited monarchy is not 
monarchy. It is one or another of those infinite forms of aristocracy, 
■which result from the infinite modes, wherein the sovereign number may 
share the sovereign power. ' Aristotle ranks it with aristocracy (Pol. iii 
16 1287 a 3 6 ixkv yhp Kara vbixov \cy6/j,evos ^atriXeiis oiK iaTiv ddos ttoXi- 
rdas ; viii 10 1310 h 2 rj /Sao-iXeia Karci, t^v dpuTTOKparlav iffrly) except in 
the ideal form of vaix^aaCKda (iii 14 1285 b 31). 

s See § 24. 

^ Ar. Pol. iii 14 1285 a 6 aBrrj jj-iv ovv t] ^aaCKela olov arparriyia tis 
avTOKp&Toip Kol dtSios iarlv. 


complete that the same government may bear the name 
either of oligarchy or democracy'. There is, then, no sharp 
line of cleavage between oligarchies and democracies ; and 
different opinions might be held about the definition of a 
particular constitution. For where governments are classi- 
fied according to the relative numbers of the ruling class 
and the entire community, some may regard as an oli- 
garchy what others will consider a democracy*, and 
Aristotle says that what in his day would have been 
called a polity, was in earlier times deiscribed as a demo- 

We must, therefore, arrive at a more precise definition 
of oligarchy. As the word implies, it originally denoted 
simply the government of the few, whatever the test was 
by which they were chosen from the many'". 'Aristocracy ' 
was also used popularly to denote the same thing", and 

' Ar. Pol. vi 9 1294 b 14. 

^ Of. Austin, Jurisprudence Leot. vi. 

^ Pol. vi 13 1297 b 24 dihirep as vvv KoKovfiev irdKiTelas, oi Trpbrepov 
iKd\ovv SriixoKparlas. A good instance is afforded by Syracuse. It is clear 
from Thuoydides (vi 39) that he regarded the constitution in 415 as a 
democracy : Aristotle (Pol. viii 4 1804 a 2) describes it as a polity. The 
term voKirda seems to have been in general use as a complimentary 
description of democracy. Cf. Ar. EtJi. viii 12 1160 a 33 ToKi.Tda,v aiTT]v 
eltbBainv oi TrXetffTOt KoKeiv \ Harp. s. v. iSicos eldjdacn T(^ dvdfiari x/>^0'^at ol 
(rffTopes M ri}! Sri/j-oKpaHas ; Dem. xv 20 ; Isocr. iv 125. 

'" Hdt. iii 80 uses SKiyapxi-q of the government of the dpiaroi,. Ar. 
Pol. viii 1 1306 b 24 defines aristocracy as a sort of oligarchy : vi 3 
1290 a 16 the popular definition included aristocracy under the title 
Skiyapxla. Plutarch I.e. uses Skiyapxia to denote the good form. 

" Thrasymachus in Plato, Rep. i 338 n. Thuo. iii 82 says that apurro- 
Kparla o-iii^pux was a party catchword of the oligarchs : but he himself uses 
apta-TOKparla in a general sense in viii 64. Cf . Xen. Hell, v 2 7 oi ^ovres 
ras oiaiat...d,pL(noKpaTii} ixP^^'^^' 

w. 2 


'dynasty' was also employed in a general sense ^^ The 
writers, however, who differentiated constitutions by their 
ethical qualities used aristocracy to denote the good form 
of the rule of the few and oligarchy to denote the bad, 
though even in this respect the usage was not consistent *l 

Taking number only into account, we may define oli- 
garchy as a form of government in which supreme power 
is held by a privileged class, small in proportion to the 
total number of free men in the state '^ To complete our 
definition we must take into account the basis of privilege 
and of exclusion, a subject discussed in the following 
sections. The classification of Greek constitutions is com- 
plicated by the class divisions, which generally existed. 
The slaves or serfs may be omitted from consideration, 
but there existed in many states a class of free subjects, 
and this class w^e must regard in defining the character 
of a constitution. In so doing we may conflict with the 
usage of some Greek writers. The political theory of the 
Greeks was not clearly or consistently formulated, and 
we have a striking instance of the vagueness of Greek 
writers in their treatment of the Spartan constitution. 

The Spartiates were a comparatively small part of the 
free population of Laconia, ruling not only over the Helots 

1* Plato, Politicus 291 d. It generally denotes a narrow and absolute 

^3 Aristotle uses these terms in all three passages (quoted above). 
Plato, Politicus 301 A, also does so. In the Bepublic vi_ii 545 c he uses 
nnoKparla to denote the first deviation from the ideal apiaroKpaHa. Xen. 
Mem. iv 6 12 denotes the ordinary oligarchy by irXovTOKparla; Plutarch 
I.e. uses 5vva(rTeia, 

" Professor Freeman, Comparative Politics p. 194, defined oligarchy 
as the constitution ' in which political rights belong to only a part of 
those who enjoy civil rights'; he should at least have said a minority. 


who were serfs, but over the Perioeci who were subject 
but not enslaved. Greek writers, in their general ignorance 
of Lacedaemonian institutions, formed different concep- 
tions of the constitution. Some excluded the Perioeci, 
others took them into account". Aristotle tells us that 
many wished to call the government a democracy, others 
an oligarchy": it was said to be compounded of oligarchy, 
monarchy and democracy", and he defines it himself as a 
mixture of aristocratic and democratic elements '^ Isocrates 
in the Panathmaicus defines the constitution of Lycurgus 
as democracy mixed with aristocracy"; but in another 
treatise he says that the Lacedaemonians were governed 
by an oligarchy^". The uncertainty and inconsistency of 
the Greek writers leaves us to form our own definition, 
and in the light of present knowledge we conclude that 
the Spartan constitution, so peculiarly compounded of 
diverse elements as to eyade exact definition, must alike 
from the form of its institutions, the spirit of its ad- 
ministration, and the exercise of sovereign power, be 
included among the oligarchies of Greece. It is distin- 
guished more particularly below as an aristocracy". 

.i* Isocrates xii 178 calls the perioeci S^nos, as if they were part of a 
Spartan oligarchy. Aristotle on the other hand {Pol. ii 6 1270 b 18) 
confines this term to the Spartiates. 

'« Pol. vi 7 1294 b 19. 

" lb. ii 6 1265 b 35. 

w lb. vi 7 1293 b 16; cf. ii 9 1270 b 16 (owing to the power of the 
Ephors) SrjiiOKparia i^ aptaTOKparias awi^aivev ; Plato, Laws iv 712 D. In 
Pol. yiii 7 1307 a 34 and 12 1316 a 33* Aristotle describes the Spartan 
constitution as an aristocracy. 

»9 xii 153; cf. vii 61, xii 178. 

2» iii 24. 

21 See §§ 6 and 32. 



§ 4. Oligarchy in a special s'ense. 

I proceed to the more precise definition of the ' Govern- 
ment of the few.' Oligarchy in general includes both 
oligarchy in a special sense and aristocracy, while polity, 
although classed by Aristotle with democracies, sometimes 
denoted the government of a minority, and must not, 
therefore, be omitted from consideration. 

Aristotle recognises that oligarchy is distinguished 
from democracy by other principles than those of number, 
and at the outset he corrects his definition by adding the 
test of poverty and wealths Any constitution, in which 
wealth confers the privileges of citizenship'', whether the 
rulers be few or many, must be regarded as an oligarchy'. 
He even argues that if a constitution existed in which a 
thousand wealthy men ruled over three hundred poor 
men, excluded from the rights of citizenship, no one 
would call it a democracy ^ At the same time economic 

1 The difficulty of including the idea of both number and wealth in 
the definition of oUgarohy and democracy is discussed in Pol. iii 8 
1279 b. 

2 I use citizen throughout this essay in the strict sense given to the 
■word by Aristotle, as one possessed of political privilege : ttoXItijs d' dirXffis 
oiSevl Twv S.'KKwv ipiferai /mWoy t] ti? fjierix^iv apxvs {Pol. iii 1 1275 a 22). 
Aristotle quotes other definitions, which he rejects. In iii 7 1279 a 31 he 
regards participation in the weal of the state as essential, but in iv 13 
1322 a 33 he refers to ' citizens who share in the constitution ' as if the 
title included others who were excluded. As he says (iii 1 1275 a 3) the 
citizen in a democracy would not be a citizen in an oligarchy. Whether 
the title would have been conferred on the unprivileged class in an 
oligarchy we do not know. 

** Pol. iii 8 1280 a 1 avayKotov oirov av Ap^wtri 8cair\ovTov &v r' Airrous,! 
8,v re TrXelous, elvai TairTiv d^iyapxla,". 

■* Pol. vi 4 1290 a 30; at the same time Aristotle {ib. b 15), citing the 


forces lead to the concentration of wealth, and it may be 
assumed as a safe general rule that the rich are the few, 
the poor the many'. There is, perhaps, no absolute 
reason why wealth should be so important an element 
in the classification of constitutions ; but, as a matter of 
history, power in the Greek cities had passed into the 
hands either of the rich or of the many, and if we except 
the old, traditional aristocracies, all the constitutions 
known to Aristotle were based either on wealth (the 
defining principle of oligarchy) or liberty (the defining 
principle of democracy) ^ 

The definition given in the Politics is consistent with 
the general theory of the Greeks. In the Ethics'' Aristotle 
says 'wealth and ascendency'' are the basis of oligarchy : 
in the Rhetoric it is the government in which ' those who 
have the assessment' rule'. Xenophon, who uses the 
' term plutocracy, gives the same definition. Plato in the 
Republic uses the same description and further says ' the 

case of Colophon, where there was a majority of rich men, refuses to the 
constitution the title of oligarchy. 

" lb. 1290 b 2 "KeKTiov on 5%os piv iariv orav ol iXeidepoi Kipiot ucriv, 
6\iyapxia Si &Tav ol irXoiiffioi, aXKh ffv/ipatvei Tois fiiv irXeious chm, tous 
S' SKiyovs. This may be accepted as the final definition. No rule can be 
laid down either for the amount of wealth required, or for the proportion 
of the 6X^701 to the rest of the population ; but it is clear that the ordinary 
oligarchs expected the government to be in the hands of a small minority. 
Thus Thuc. viii 92 11 says the 400 at Athens would not appoint the 
6000 t6 Ko/ra^TTJaaL fierdxovs roaoiTovi &vTLKpus drjixov ijyoi^fievoi, i.e. to impart 
the government to about a fourth of the total citizen population would be 
' downright democracy. ' See also the next section. 

6 Ar. PoJ. vi8 1294al0. 

7 I refer throughout to the passages cited above § 2 n. 3. 

8 Siva/us (which I translate 'ascendency ') is used in a special sense, 
which I discuss below, § 35 n. 7. 

' ol aTb Ttfi7jfJ.aT0}v. 


rich rule and the poor man has no share".' In the Politi- 
cus he defines both aristocracy and oligarchy as the govern- 
ment of the rich. The element of wealth was therefore 
generally recognised as an essential condition of oligarchy. 

§ 5. Polity. 

Of course there were governments based upon a money 
qualification which the Greeks did not regard as oligar- 
chies. We are not able to determine the minimum 
amount of property qualifying for privilege in an oligarchy, 
but it is necessary to discuss how far we should include 
the polity within our general definition. The polity forms 
the link between oligarchy and democracy^ and inter- 
mediate forms are naturally difficult to classify. But 
there is no doubt that, however he defines it, Aristotle 
ranks polity with democracy and not witb oligarchy. In 
the first place it denotes the normal democracy, in which 
' the multitude rules for the common interest^.' Secondly, 
it denotes a mixed constitution inclining more to demo- 
cracy than to oligarchy^, or a mixed constitution of rich 
and poor^ Neither of these descriptions justifies us in 
associating it with oligarchy, but another definition em- 
ployed by Aristotle shows that he conceived it to be a 

1° viii 550 c i] atrd nfnnjfj.dTiai' TroXirefa ^j" ^ oi fjiiv ttXoi/o-ioi apxovci., Tivrin 
5' oi ijATe<TTi.v apxv^- Throughout the description of oligarchy (550 o to 
551 b) Plato lays the greatest stress on wealth and money making. 

' Pol. ii 6 1265 b 27 /i^re Sr]/ioKpaTla fi-fire 6\iyapxta, ixi(ni di ToiruPf 
ijc KoKoviTi. TToKLTdav. On the general use of the term see § 3 n. 9. 

2 PoLiu 7 1279 a 37. Many other passages confirm this: of. espe- 
cially vi 3 1290 a 18. 

3 lb. vi 8 1293 b 33. 

4 76. vi 8 1294 a 22. 

§ 5] POLITY. 23 

government based on a moderate census, in which power 
was entrusted to a minority. In three passages he defines 
it as the constitution of those ' who bear arms^' and it is 
obvious that he means those men of moderate property, 
who were able to equip themselves and serve as hoplites". 
This, either directly or indirectly, implies a property 
qualification, and there are several passages in which it is 
implied that the men of moderate property will be the 
ruling element'. Lastly in the Ethics he defines it as a 
' timocratic ' constitution, based' on the assessment of pro- 
perty, i.e. he applies to it the identical terms used else- 
where to define oligarchy'. 

Polity, then, was used to denote a moderate timocracy, 
the constitution of the middle class. It is clear from the 
few data that we have, that the hoplite census would 
only admit a minority to privilege'. This minority would 
however be so large, and the property qualification would 

6 Pol. ii 6 1265 b 28 ; iii 7 1279 b 3 ; iii 17 1288 a 12. 

' Hoplite service, whether regarded as a duty or a privilege, was not 
usually undertaken by poor men. Aristotle, Pol. vii 7 1321 a 12, says 
TO 7&P owXiTiKbv Tuv eOirdpcijv iffrl fiaWov t) rwv aTbpiav. This is a care- 
less statement at variance with his definition of the iroXirela. 

' Thus one method of forming a polity is to split the difference (of 
Tlij.ri/j,a) between oligarchy and democracy: Pol. vi 8 1294b 5. In viii 6 
1306 b 9 the rlianxa must be so arranged in a rroXire/a as to admit oi 

' Ethics I.e. Ttix,oKpaTi,K-^...iK Ttix.ij/ii.dToi', identical with the definition of 
oligarchy in the Rhetoric, and with that implied throughout the Politics. 

' Belooh, Bevolkerung p. 70 (to take the instance of Athens), concludes 
that the proportion of hoplites to thetes at the beginning of the Pelo- 
ponnesian war was about 15/16,000 to 19/20,000. If we are to lay any 
stress on Lys. xx 14 (see below, Appendix C), there were perhaps 9,000 
hoplites in 411, and the total number of citizens of full age must have 
been over 20,000. 


be so moderate, that Aristotle would refuse to include 
the constitution under the term oligarchy", but unless 
we accept his definition absolutely, we cannot omit from 
consideration a government analogous in every way to 
oligarchy, based upon the same kind of qualification and 
differing from it solely in degree. 

Of governments based upon wealth there must have 
been many gradations from the moderate polity, in which 
perhaps almost half the freemen ruled, to the extreme, 
narrow oligarchy, in which a few men, concentrating all 
power in their own hands, controlled the government in 
their own interest. 

§ 6. Aristocracy. 

The inconsistency and confusion of Greek political 
terminology is illustrated by the use of the title Aris- 
tocracy. While popular usage made it a mere equivalent 
for oligarchy', the philosophers chose the term to describe 
the ideal state^, the only constitution, according to Aris- 
totle, justly entitled to the name^. But it was in general 

" He seems to have considered a high census essential to oligarchy. 
Thus in Pol. vi 11 1296 a 14 he tells us that the moderately wealthy 
citizens are found in greater numbers in democracies than in oligarchies. 
Cf. iii 5 1278 a 22 iv Se rats 6\<.yapx!.ai.5...diri> Tiix-qix&Tav ixaKpdv al /jteB^^eis 
Tuv apxuv. See ahove § 4 n. 5. 

1 See above § 3 n. 11. 

^ Plato Rep. iv 445 n applies the term 6,pi<rT0KpaTia, to the ideal state, 
reserving nfioKparla (viii 547 n) to describe the better type of oligarchy 
which in the Politicus (301 a) is called ipiaTOKparla. Aristotle uses 
api.aTOKpa.Tla for the best state, but he is not consistent. 

2 Pol. vi 7 1298 b 3 ttiv yhp iK tuv ipiaTUv aTrXws TroXnelav /car' dpeTTjP 
KoX fiT] irpos iirbd^aiv Tiva ayadCiv avSpCiv fj.6v7]V BlKaiov irpoffayopeOeLV dpiffro- 

§ 6] AEISTOCRACy. 25 

use and was too convenient to be renounced, and Aristotle 
himself applies it to actual as well as to ideal constitutions. 
The normal government of the few he calls Aristocracy*, 
thereby putting it on a level with monarchy and polity: 
the rule of the nobles in early Greece is similarly de- 
scribed^, and there are passages enough in the Politics to 
show that there were governments existing in his own 
day, to which Aristotle would not deny the title*. 

Aristocracy, however, is usually defined by Greek 
writers in moral terms, so that it is difficult to reduce it 
to ordinary principles of classification. As the normal form 
of the government of the few, it differs from oligarchy in 
the political qualification. In place of wealth, the quali- 
fication of the oligarchy proper, ' virtue ' or ' merit'' or 
'education^' is substituted, and the ruling class is described 
as 'the best",' 'the good",' 'the wisest"' or 'the men of 
worth^l' Any process of selection which tended to assign 

* Pol. iii 7 1279 a 34 (he there shows that he is following popular 
usage — KoXeiv eliijda^v). 

^ The use of the title is implied in Pol. iii 15 1286 b. 

* Aristocracies are spoken of as actual constitutions frequently in the 
sixth and eighth books. Of. for example viii 8 1308 a 3. 

' Pol. vi 8 1294 a 10 dpio-TOKparias Spos aperfj. It is defined again and 
again as the government KaT ApeTJiv or kot' i^lav. (See Politics passim 
and Ethics I.e.) 

8 On Taidda see below, nn. 25—28. 

" Pol. iii 7 1279 a 34 (where another definition is suggested) : of. Hdt. 
iii 81. 

i» Pol. iii 15 1286 b 4. 

11 Polybius vi chs. 3 — 10 defines aristocracy as the government ad- 
ministered iirb T&v diKaioTdToiv Kal (ppovifiuTdTUV kwt' eKKoyfiv. 

1* eVieifceis (a word constantly used in this connection by Aristotle, cf. 
Pol. iii 10 1281 a 28; 12 1283 a 16) is difficult to translate, as it seems 
to combine a moral sense (fair, reasonable) with a social application 
(respectable, decent). 


power in accordance with merit was said to be aristocratic^', 
and some constitutions, which in other respects might be 
regarded as oligarchies or democracies, by the exercise of 
this principle acquired an aristocratic element". 

If we accept the definition in a purely moral sense it 
is obvious that the term aristocracy can only have an ideal 
application. Virtue in the abstract can only be made the 
test of citizenship in Utopia ; in the world of facts there 
is no infallible means of excluding the base and worth- 
less. In a political connexion virtue must bear a relative 
and conventional sense, and I proceed to enquire what 
formal tests can be applied to define the actual aristocracy. 
The virtue of the citizen, as Aristotle says, is relative to 
the state"; and the term may be used in a conventional 
sense to denote the qualities, which may be predicated of a 
ruling class ^''. In this sense it is the attribute of power, 
and the qualities implied are generally the qualities of 
the warrior and the ruler. Considered historically these 
were found in the early constitutions only in certain 

'' Pol. vi 7 1293 b 10 Sirov ye ipurrlvSTii' alpovvrai, ras ipxas aOrri i) 
iroXiTeJo ApuTTOKpariKri KoXciTai ; cf . ii 11 1273 a 25. The election of 
arohous described in Ar. Ath. Pol. 8 2 (of. Philooli. 58, F. H. G. i 394) was 
aristocratic and the process of Somiiaala, was, in intention, aristocratic. 

I'' Cf. Pol. viii 7 1307 a. The Solonian democracy was regarded as 
having an aristocratic character (Isocr. xii 131) : Pericles claims the same 
character for the fully developed democracy (Thuc. ii 37 'iKai7T0i...i.Tr' 
dpiTTJs irpon/MTai). 

^' Pol. iii 3 1276 b 30 ttji' aperriv ava-yKoiov ctvai toO toXItov irpbs ttiv 
vo\iT€lav. Cf. vi 7 1293 b 6. 

1^ It is obvious that apery] is used in a restricted sense ; Aristotle (Pol. 
iii 12 1283 a 20) mentions Sxiuoirivq and vroXe/niKT) d/jer?; as the attributes 
of the iinuKui (the ruling class of an aristocracy). Xen. B,esp. Lac. 10 7 
alludes to iroXiTiKT] dper-fi. So Montesquieu (Preface to Esprit des Lois) 
uses virtue in an absolutely arbitrary sense. 


privileged families, who were the foremost in war and 
alone entitled to have any share in the government^'. 
Constitutions in which power was transmitted by here- 
ditary descent marked a stage of political development. 
They were called aristocracies; and the rulers arrogated 
to themselves the titles of 'best' and 'good'; and expected 
that their subjects should so regard and so describe them". 
In the absolute separation of social classes such an 
identification of power with virtue^' was natural and to a 
certain extent reasonable^". 

Many governments, in which power was restricted to 
certain noble families, survived in later times, and unless 
they had degenerated into the narrow and oppressive type 
known as a ' dynasty ^V they would naturally be described 
as aristocracies. If, then, we consider the historical 
application of the word it appears at first sight strange 
that Aristotle did not introduce the qualification of noble 
birth in his definition of aristocracy. But the political 

1' The diffusion of ' dperr) ' among a larger number led to the institu- 
tion of aristocracies ; on these constitutions see § 24. 

18 The use of moral titles to denote social classes is found even in Homer 
and Hesiod. It needs no illustration. Cf. Grote ii p. 64 'The epithets 
of good and just are euphemisms arising from submission and fear.' 

18 Cf. De Parieu, La Science Politique^ p. 56 ' L'aristooratie a toujours- 
en fait d6sign6 le gouvernement des plus puissauts plutot que oelui des 
plus vertueux.' 

20 Freeman, Comparative Politics Tp-p. 26& — 7 'In aristocratic common- 
wealths... there was for ages something which it needed no great straining 
of language to call the rule of the best. Morally best I do not say, but 
best so far as this, that narrow as was the government of those common- 
wealths, fenced in as the state was within a circle of exclusive houses, 
these houses at least knew how to rule, and how to hand on the craft of 
the ruler from generation to generation.' Mr Warde Fowler, The City 
State pp. 93 ff., ranks the merits of the aristocracy even higher. 

21 See § 35 below. 


development of the Greeks had tended in most states to 
transfer privilege from birth to wealth or to numbers; in 
others in which the privilege of birth was still maintained 
the government had become narrow and despotic. Noble 
birth had lost its glamour, and Aristotle, though he does 
not overlook its political importance, prefers to define it in 
terms of the qualities, which it most generally implied. 
Thus he defines it as hereditary virtue ^^ or as the con- 
junction of virtue and ancient wealth''^: and in explaining 
the varieties of oligarchical constitutions he enumerates 
as qualities of the notables wealth, good birth, virtue and 
education'^. Of these qualities wealth is the characteristic 
of the oligarchy proper, and one of the attributes of good 
birth. Virtue, as we have seen, stands for certain qualities 
of the ruling class, but education adds a new element for 

We know of no instance in which education in the 
sense of general culture formed a qualification for citizen- 
ship, but in certain states of Greece, of which Sparta and 
Crete were the most eminent^'', a rigid system of training 

" Pol. iii 12 1283 a 36 dperri yhov^. 

^ lb. vi 8 1294 a 21 Aperri KalirXoSros dpxaios; viii 1 1301b 3 irpoybvuv 
dperri Kal wXoOtos. It is worth noting that aperi; and iiX(3os (anoeatral 
Tvealth) are the attributes constantly mentioned by Pindar as essential 
to success in the games, which was, in his time, the ambition of the 
aristocratic houses of Greece. 

^ Pol. vi 4 1291 b 28 tujv 5e yvti}pifMt)v ttXovtos ivy^vua dperTj Traidela. 
Cf. ib. 12 1296 a 17 where the elements of ' quality ' in a state are 
described as TrXoOros iratdela e6y4vei.a. Diod. i 28 5 in defining the 
Eupatrids as iv iraiSeiq. fidXurra diareTpiipdres ascribes to them one of the 
usual characteristics of nobility. 

^ Sparta and Crete both kept up a rigid system of training under 
state control. We do not know whether such a system was maintained 
elsewhere ; but it is quite possible that some of the Dorian colonies (such 


under state control was maintained. This training, carried 
out in accordance with traditional rules ^' and directed to 
inculcate habits of patriotism and obedience and to fit the 
citizen for the duties of war, was supposed to be productive 
of 'political virtue^.' Governments, therefore, based on 
such a system of training were properly classified as 
aristocracies, and their characteristic features did in fact 
supply the terms of a definition of aristocracy both to 
Xenophon and to Aristotle^. 

This brief survey suffices to show that the Greek con- 
ception of aristocracy does permit us to apply formal 
principles of classification ; that constitutions based on 
birth or training might both be included among the 
'governments of virtue,' and inasmuch as the system of 
training was usually maintained only within a privileged 
class the Greek definition of aristocracy, in its application 

as Thera) and some of the smaller Dorian states (such as Epidaurus) 
may have practised it. 

26 The training was based upon 'ordinances' (vbiuim), which I take to 
denote traditional (and probably unwritten) laws. Cf. Eth. x 9 1179 34 
ai iikv -yap Kowai iTiiiiXeiai Srj\ov on 5id i>6/i.iav ylvovrai. On v6iuiia, cf. 
the passages quoted in note 28, and the descriptions of Sparta quoted 
below § 32. 

^ Omitting the particular evidence of Sparta (on which see § 32 
below), Ar. Pol. vi 7 1293 b 12 talks of states that make koivt) infiiXeia 
dperijs. Cf. iii 12 1283 a 25 on the association of Triudda and dperii. 
Mr Hicks in his note says that Aristotle uses the words interchangeably. 

^ Xen. Mem. iv 6 12. In an aristocracy offices are appointed ix tuv 
TO, v6/ufia (inT€\oivTu>v. (These are the rules of training.) Ar. Rhet. i 8 
1365 b 34 adopts and enlarges this definition. dpt^ToKparia h y ol Kara 
iratdday {SLav^fwvrac t&s dpxds). TraiSeLttv d^ \iy(a t^v vtto tov v6fj,ov 
Knuh-qv. ol ydp i/i/ie/Mi/'riKiiTes iv Tois fo/u/wis iv Ti? dpiffTOKparlg, &pxov<n.v. 
dvdyKTj di toOtovs f^aiv€(r8ai dpUrrovs. Cf. Pol. vi 15 1299 b 25 oi TreTrat- 
Sev/iivoi are described as the governing class in an aristocracy. We may 
compare the importance attached to education in the ideal states of both 


to actual constitutions, does not differ seriously from our 

§ 7. Aristocracy, Oligarchy and Polity. 

I have now concluded the definition of the three terms 
applied to 'the government of the few.' We trace a 
radical distinction between aristocracy, the government 
based on ' virtue,' and oligarchy, the government based on 
wealth. It is unnecessary to emphasize the contrast. The 
old aristocracies of birth and training, the origin of whose 
institutions was lost in a period of mythical romance, 
were preserved by the prescription of social and religious 
privilege from change or revolution; they held aloof from 
commerce and made their whole life a preparation for 

Of the oligarchies based on wealth some few perhaps 
had been developed without violence out of the older 
aristocratic governments: but most of them were the 
offspring of revolutions, creations designed to meet new 
social conditions or instituted on the first foundation of a 
commercial colony. Wealth was the principle of the 
constitution, and wealth the aim of the citizens. A 
majority of freemen, who lacked the qualifying amount of 
property, were altogether excluded fi:om citizenship, while 
the government was controlled by a small number of 
citizens, whose efforts were often directed to make still 

Plato and Aristotle. Cf. also Ephorus 67, F. H. G. i 254, who traces the 
ill-success of the Boeotians to the fact that they had no ^70177) or 7rai5e/a. 
^ I am speaking of aristocracies in the period after constitutional 
development was completed. In the earlier period there were many 
aristocracies actively engaged in trade, both in Greece and the colonies. 
See § 25, u. 14. 


more narrow the circle of the governors. Analogous to 
this government but on a more equitable basis was the 
polity, a constitution resembling oligarchy in the exclusion 
of the poor and in the privilege ascribed to property, but 
differing from it in the low census required and the pro- 
portionately larger number included within the citizen 

§ 8. The basis of Oligarchy and Democracy. 

All constitutions, according to Aristotle, are based on 
some principle of justice or equality'; in other words 
there must be in the governing body some qualification, 
which forms the basis of privilege, some one respect in 
which all citizens, qua citizens, are equaP. The democrat 
claimed that all the freemen of the state were equal : he, 
therefore, based his claim on 'freedom'.' Equality, how- 
ever, is not a mere question of number : states are based 
on 'qualities,' as well as 'quantity*'; and there is as 
much injustice in giving equality of privilege to unequals, 
as in denying it to equals". The truth is well expressed 

1 Pol. viii 1 1301 a 26. 

^ Pol. vi 11 1295 b 25 jSoiiXerat 84 ye t) TriXis i^ laav etvai, Kal biJ,olwv on 
judXiffra. Of. Isocr. iii 15 oZ 6'h.yapx^ai xal StifMKpaTLai ras l<r6T7]Tas rots 
//ST^ovffi Tuty ToXcTetwv ^7}Tov<ri, Kal toOt^ eddoKtfji.ei wap' aiJrats, ^v fiijdh 
^Tepos ^T^pov SivTjTai ir\4ov ^eiv. 

' See below §9. 

* Pol. vi 12 1296 b 16 Sffn d^ vaira t6\is Ik re toO voiov koI iroffov: ib. 
viii 1 1301 b 29 l<rn Si Slrrov to hov ri jxh yhp dpiB/Mp rb Bi Kar' i^lav 

" Pol. iii 9 1280 a 11 Sokci taov rh SlKaiov etvai. Kal ianv dXX' oi iraaiv 
aKKa toU tirois. Cf. Plato Hep. viii 558 c (of democracy) laiTrird riva 
oyuolus firoi! re Kal ivlffoLS diave/jiJifte'oi. Cf, Isocr. iii 14 SiKaidrarov Ti...(Ur; 
Tois ivofwlovs tSiv opioluv Tvyxifeiv, 


by Montesquieu. 'There are always persons,' he says, 
' distinguished by their birth, riches, or honours : but 
were they to be confounded with the common people 
and have only the weight of a single vote, like the rest, 
the common liberty would be their slavery and they 
would have no interest in supporting it.... The share they 
have, therefore, in the legislature, ought to be proportioned 
to their other advantages in the state °.' 

The three qualities, which claim equality of privilege, 
are freedom, wealth and virtue (of which the two latter in 
combination include the idea of good birth'). But good 
birth and virtue are rare, and therefore democracy and 
oligarchy are the common types of constitution*; and the 
issue is limited to the rival claims of freedom and wealth. 
The democrats from being equal in respect of freedom 
regard themselves as entitled to absolute equality : the 
oligarchs from being unequal in the matter of property 
regard themselves as generally unequal and therefore seek 
to have an advantage in the state*. The contest thus lies 
between those who claim general equality and those who 
claim general inequality ; in other words between the 
greater number and the greater property". 

The demands of oligarchy and democracy were irre- 
concilable : each asserted an indefeasible right to power : 

' Esprit des Lois Book xi c. 6. This corresponds to Aristotle's theory 
of political justice. Cf. Ar. Pol. viii 3 1303b 6 <rTa<Ti.d^omi....4v rais Si)i/.o- 
Kpariais ol yvihpi^L, Hn fier^x^^^f- ^^^ '^<y<jiv ovk Tcot ovre^. 

7 Pol. vi 8 1294 a 19. 

8 Pol. viii 1 1301 b 39. 

9 Pol. Tiii 1 1301 a 29. 

1" Pol. vii 3 1318 a 18 (paal yci.p ol Stj/motikoI tovto SIkmov 6 n &v 36^ 
TOis irXelocnv ol S' dXiyapx^Kol S Ti &v Bd^y t§ TrXeioi'i oi<rl<}..Jx^i 5' &fi(p6Tepa 
iviadrriTa KoX dSiKiav, 


and to the impossibility of compromising the dispute we 
may trace the bitterness and permanence of party strife 
throughout Greek history. 

§ 9. The character of Democracy. 

It will scarcely be possible to form a just idea of 
oligarchic sentiment without briefly considering the theory 
of the democrats, which was rejected so vehemently by 
the oligarchs. Democracy rested on the two principles of 
' liberty ' and ' equality\' Liberty has been explained to 
mean free birth (the respect in which all citizens of a 
democracy were equal)^ But the term was used to denote 
a great deal more than that. It implies above all the 
right of the free man to have his voice in the control of 
the state, to be free from subjection to a superior class: 
in fact the self-government of the many'. At the same 
time it includes the greater measure of individual freedom 
and independence from restraint, which distinguished the 
Greek democracies from other constitutions*. 

1 Fol. vi 4 1291 b 34 {iXevSepla Kal Mrns). Cf. Thuo. ii 37 (to tirov... 
iXevdipojs TToXtreiJo/ze;'); Dem. xxi 67. 

2 Newman, Introduction p. 248 n. 1. 

' The definition I give in the text is borne out by Aristotle, Pol. vii 2 
1317 b 2 iXevSeplas Si Iv /iiv ri iv /iipei &pxc(r6at Kal Apx^iv, ib. 11 fc Sk ri 
i9iv (is §oi\eTa.l ns. 'EXeu9ep(a frequently means 'self-government of the 
people,' while dov\eia denotes subjection to a ruling class. Cf. [Xen.] 
Besp. Ath. 1 9 Sij/ios oi poi\cTai,,.Sov'\eieiv (=be subjects of an 
oligarchy) dW iXeMepos etvai Kal apxeiv. Contrast ib. 3 11. Cf. Thuc. 
viii 68 4 (where iXcueepia= self-government) and contrast iv 85; vi 40 2; 
Xen. Hell, ii 3 24; Plato Bep. v 463 A b. 

* Cf. Aristotle quoted in n. 3 and Pol. viii 9 1310 a 30 (SAicei) iXeidcpov 
Kal taov t6 o n av ^oiXrfral ns iroietv. Plato Bep. viii 562 lays stress on the 
excess of liberty in democracies. Cf. Thuc. ii 39 ; vii 69 {ii iv air^ ivewl- 
TaKToi iraaai h ttji' Slatrav i^ovffla) ; Dem. xxv 25. Cf. § 12 n. 17. 

w. 3 


Equality implies first of all that in the collective 
exercise of power the voice of the majority shall prevail^. 
Aristotle is inclined to set a high value on the collective 
wisdom of the people*, and it is a universal principle of 
democracy that 'government should rest on the active 
consent of the citizens'.' But democracy tends to assert 
a second principle, which is of more importance: that 
' any one self-supporting and law-abiding citizen is on the 
average as well qualified as another for the work of 
govemment^' This principle found a limited application 
in some Greek democracies, but Aristotle asserts the 
danger of admitting the people to the chief offices of 
government^ Thucydides represents Pericles as asserting 
that at Athens, while poverty was no bar to public 
service, men were advanced to honour on the claim of 
' virtue ' (using the word as a protest against its oligarchic 
associations"). Athenagoras in defining democracy is 
made to assign privilege both to wealth and to wisdom, 
and to leave only the collective decision to the people". 
We see, then, that the democratic idea of equality ad- 
mitted of degrees. While it was considered essential that 
the people should possess collective power in the assembly 
and the law courts, it was only in the more highly- 
developed democracies that the equal qualification of all 

■' Ar. Pol. viii 9 1310 a 28 Democracy is defined t(} t6 ■!r\eiov dvM 
Kipiov Kal ry aeuSepi?. Cf. ib. vii 2 1317 b 5—10. 

6 Pol. iii 11 1281 a 40. 

' Sidgwick, Elements of Politics p. 584. 8 j-j^ 

9 Pol. iii 11 1281 b 25. 

i» ii 37. 

" vi 39. This, it is true, is a description of a moderate democracy, 
not fully developed. 


citizens for administrative office was recognised and 
enforced '^ The principle of election by the vote of 
the people gave a better chance to men of wisdom and 
ability, and so far prevented the theory of equality being 
carried to logical absurdity. But though there were some 
offices, and these usually the most important, which were 
in all constitutions elective, the introduction of the lot was 
an assertion of the absolutely equal qualification of all 
citizens for the duties of the magistracies to which it was 
applied. The lot, then, was the sign that the principle of 
equality was duly recognised, and it was regarded as so 
essential a characteristic of democracy" that it was by 
some writers introduced into the definition of this 

§ 10. The character of Oligarchy. 

I proceed to consider the grounds on which the 
oligarchic ruler based his claim to power. While the 
democrat asserted the equal right of all free burghers 
not only to determine the policy of the state but to 
take his turn or stand his chance of exercising the 
active duties of government, the oligarch, equally with 

^^ I should say that I am here referring to the method of election, 
not to the eligibility of citizens for office. It was a general characteristic 
of democracy that most magistrates at any rate should be elected ix 
TivTun'. Cf. Aristotle Pol. yii 2 1317 b for this and for the general 
characteristics of democracy. 

'' See J. W. Headlam, Election by Lot p. 12 ff . He lays stress (p. 32) 
on another aspect of the lot ; it prevented the magistrate getting power 
at the expense of the Assembly. Cf. Ar. Pol. vii 2 1317 b 20. 

1* In the Rhetoric i 8 1865 b 32 Aristotle defines democracy as the 
Constitution iv y kXtjpij) Smviixovrai. rds d/3x<is. Cf. Hdt. iii 80 TrdXy /xey 



the aristocrat, maintained that only a part of the com- 
munity was qualified for political duties or justified in 
exercising political power. They adopted the hjrpothesis 
that certain classes which might be qualified by birth and 
wealth, or birth and training, or by wealth alone, were fit 
to rule over others, who were not fit to rule. As long as 
aristocracy lasted, the authority of the rulers was not 
questioned. They were separated from their subjects by 
ineradicable class divisions : their rule was consecrated by 
prescription and they alone knew the secrets of govern- 
ment. In such a society, as long as the position of the 
rulers is not challenged, their sovereignty needs no ex- 
planation; it would be impossible to imagine any other 
distribution of power'. 

But in course of time other social forces became 
dominant : the basis of privilege was widened ; wealth 
took the place of birth, and the oligarch regarded himself 
as the heir of the aristocrat and asserted in virtue of his 
property an exclusive claim to rule. His claim did not go 
unchallenged. Aristocracy had been hedged by a divinity 
that prevented assault ; it survived because it was not 
assaulted. But oligarchy rose on the downfall of aristo- 
cracy: it had won its position by force and by force it 
must maintain it or lose it. The ' age of discussion ' 
began with the first break-up of the old governments, 
and henceforth constitutions had to struggle for existence. 
What then was the justification of oligarchy ? The 
oligarchs reasserted the claims of the aristocrats. In 
wealth and in the power that it gives they were on the 
same level, and they were not concerned to recognise 
' On the early aristocracies and the transition to oligarchy, see 
ch. ii § 24. 


other differences. In early days, they might argue, power 
was entrusted to ' the few,' and in every state ' the few ' 
are ' wiser ' and ' better ' than ' the many ' : ' the wise ' and 
' the good ' are intended by nature to govern ' the base ' 
a,nd 'the mean.' There is of course the fatal fallacy 
underlying this theory, that it assumes that the few rich 
are identical with the few wise; but it is typical of 
oligarchic sentiment and it colours all oligarchic literature, 
although it was rejected and reversed by the democrats". 

^ I am obliged to omit from consideration the most interesting 
question of the political sentiment of Greek literature: but without 
touching on details, a few general points may be noted. The early 
writers with the exception of Hesiod took an aristocratic standpoint; 
and after political change had begun they remained the champions of 
aristocracy, opposed alike to tyranny, the rule of the many and the rule 
of wealth. (Cf. Solon, Theognis and Alcaeus.) After democracy and 
oligarchy had become the prevalent forms of government, the oligarch 
tried to assert the same claim as the aristocrat; and just as he used. 
dpuTTOKparta to denote dXiyapxla so he was inclined to identify the few 
with o! KoKol KayaBol, oi x/w^ffToi, oi Swarol, the many with oi worqpol, oi 
HoxBriiiol and the like : and to credit himself with eivoula, cru^poaivri etc. 
and his opponents with S/Spis and other evil qualities. Some of these 
terms almost lost their moral meaning and became simply party catch- 
words ; but the democrats used many of them with an absolutely opposite 
application, hurling back on the oligarchs the very terms of abuse 
applied to themselves and using every epithet of praise to describe 
democracy (see above § 1 n. 5). If we consider the writers, who were 
neither oligarchs nor democrats by sympathy (such as Thucydides, Plato, 
and Aristotle), we find that they have censure enough for democracy. 
'History is a sound aristocrat,' and most of these writers, living in 
Athens, must have been keenly alive to the faults of democracy: but 
History is no oUgarch, and it would not be difficult to show that Greek 
literature is even less in sympathy with oligarchy than it is with de- 


§ 11. Material claims of the Oligarch. 

This self-laiidation, while it throws some light on the 
mental attitude of the oligarchs, has little hearing on 
their claims to rule. Their claims were both material 
and moral. On the former they assumed that they were 
better qualified to serve the state both in person and 
property, and, to invert the modern apophthegm, they 
might argue that property has its rights as well as its 
duties. We know that in Athens the burden of taxation 
was mostly borne by the rich, and we may conclude that 
in the oligarchies also the rich were the chief contributors 
to the revenue of the state'. We have only to consider 
the enormous influence which phrases like ' taxation and 
representation' have wielded in the modem world to 
realise that to the oligarch this fact would seem to 
constitute an indefeasible right to rule, and there are 
many instances in which we find the claim asserted^. 

The rich man served the state also in person as a 
hoplite, while the poor man fought, not at all or only as a 
light-armed soldier ; and the fact that the poor were thus 
imable to protect their fatherland in war, must have 

1 In Ar. Pol. vi 4 1291 a 33 oJ elivopoi. are defined as t6 raXi oiaUa 

^ Good instances oconr in connection with the establishment of the 
Four Hundred. Thus it was proposed to entrust power to6tois ot av 
fidXiffra Tois re xp^/^offi Kai ToU iTiifw.(riv dxpeXeiv ohl re Hctlv (Thuc. viii 65 : 
cf. Ar. Ath. Pol. 29). The conspirators were ready i(r(f>ipav 4k tSv ISitav 
otKtav '!rpodiiJLUis...oit oiKin SWois ^ <T(j>l(nv airots TokaiivwpovvTat (Thuo. 
viii 63). The claim is very prominent in the speech of the Boeotians 
(Thuc. iii 65) ; they argue that a minority of rich men, having a greater 
stake in the city (wXela Trapa^aWdfiepoi) had a right to betray it in order 
7-a ajio ^x""- Of. Ar. Pol. iii 12 1283 a 31. 


seemed to the oligarch an unanswerable argument for his 
permanent exclusion from privilege'. Even to-day the 
ability at need to serve in the army is regarded by 
many as an essential condition of political enfranchise- 
ment*, and in the city state of Greece, which was ever 
prepared for war, there was even stronger reason for 
such a provision'. But though the argument might be 
used against the poor, we must not forget that the 
ordinary oligarchy excluded from power many men who 
served as hoplites, and it was only in the polity that 
the qualification was sufficiently low to admit this class. 

§ 12. Moral claims of the Oligarch. 

The oligarch based his claim on other grounds. He 
argued, in effect, not only that he had a better right, than 
the poor man, to govern the state, but that he was better 
qualified to do so; while other classes were disqualified, 
alike physically and morally, from discharging political 
duties. I have pointed out that the oligarch assumed 
a moral and mental superiority, and there were, of course, 
elements of culture to which only the rich man could 

^ The satirical pamphlet on the Athenian Constitution practically 
assumes that public service should mean political power, and the author 
explains that the principle is really recognised at Athens, for the S^/ios 
are the source of the city's power more than the yevvaioi, and irKoinoi and 
otXitoi ([Xen.] Besp. Ath. 1 2). 

* We may compare the conscription. The inability to serve furnishes 
a common argument against the enfranchisement of women. 

5 Cf. Freeman, Comparative Politics, p. 197 'In all primitive societies 
the distinction between soldier and civilian is unknown. Hence the 
army is the assembly, the assembly is the army.' Of. the same author 
Sicily ii p. 62 where he argues (from Diod. xii 19) that it was originally 
the custom to wear arms in the assembly as a badge of citizenship. 


attain': but the great advantage (according to the ideas 
of the Greeks) possessed by the man of property lay in his 
having leisure to practise the arts of war and of govern- 
ment, while the poor man not only lacked leisure, but was 
obliged to follow employments, which were disqualifying 
and degrading to body and mind. This subject is so 
intimately connected with the attitude of the Greeks to 
industry and commerce that we must briefly consider it. 

In this matter we must distinguish the sentiment of 
the old military aristocracies from that of the commercial 
oligarchies. It has been suggested that the origin of the 
contemptuous feeling for industry and trade should be 
traced to the age of the migrations when the victorious 
invaders possessed themselves of the best land and left 
menial occupations to the subject-races^ Hence a general 
characteristic of the old military aristocracies was a definite 
division of classes, which resulted in the practical exclusion 
of the artisan and trader from the government. Some 
states actually made 'money-making' a disqualification, 
or forbade the ' banausic ' arts to their citizens ; an aris- 
tocracy, according to Aristotle, would render it impossible 
for the labourer or mechanic or trader to be a citizen' ; 

^ Cf. At. Pol, vi 8 1293 b 37 t4 fnaWov &Ko\ov$eiv TraiSelav Kal eiyiveiav 
Tots eiiropoiripois, 

^ Cf. BuchBensohiitz, Besitz und Erwerb pp. 255 fi. See also Goll, 
Kulturbilder^ pp. 162 ff. and Newmau, Introduction pp. 98 £f. 

' At. Pol. iii 5 1278 a 19 ' In an aristocratic state, in which power is 
given (car' apeTifv and Kar' dfiaK, the pivaviros and the Bti^ cannot be citizens,' 
oi5 yap olbv t' iinT-qSeSaai rb, Trjs dpeTrjs ^uvra ^lov pAvavffov tj BijnKbv, Cf. 
viii 12 1316 b 2 ^;' ivoKKais re SXiyapxlais oix l^eari xP1M'''''^ff "■^f. Xen. Oec. 
4 3 ^K ivtais nkv tS>v irSkiUiv, fidXiffra Si ii> rais eivTroX^/toi! SoKoiaais etrai, 
oi55' ^^curt Twv toXltQp oOSej^l ^avavtrLKhi t^x"^^ ipyd^eaSai. Cf. Hdt. ii 
167. For the few known particular instances of this prohibition see ch. 


and in the ideal states of Plato and Aristotle the separa- 
tion of the ruling class from those engaged in trade or the 
manual arts was rigidly carried out^ 

On the other hand the oligarchies of wealth could not 
exclude the rich traders and craftsmen^, for they were 
commercial communities bent upon money-making and 
probably holding trade higher in esteem than it was 
held in a democracy of aristocratic feeling like Athens* : 
but for the artisan working for a wage the oligarch had 
the utmost contempt. 

The Greeks regarded leisure as a necessary condition 
of a good life, and as in itself a source of happiness'. 
They had no feeling in favour of ' work for work's sake ' : 
work was for them only the means and leisure the end^ 
Leisure was a necessity, not only for the proper training 
of the hoplite, which must have required constant prac- 
tice", but above all for the due discharge of political 
duties'". The philosophers tended to make government 

* The assignment of special functions to different orders in the state 
is the keynote of the BepuWic. Of. especially iii 415 b o. In the Laws v 
741 B Plato forbids money-making to the citizens ; while Aristotle forbids 
the citizens of his ideal state to live a /Sios p&vavaos or d,yopa1oi or even to 
be yewpyol (Pol. iv 9 1328 b 39). Cf. Pol. iii 5 1278 a 8 ^ S^ pe\H<7TV 
7r6\is oi TTOiTiffei ^Avavaov toKIttiv. 

" Cf. Ar. Pol. iii 5 1278 a 21 h Si rofs 6\i7opx'o's 9ijTa niv ovk ivdi- 
X^rai elvai. iroXlrriP.,. pdi>av(roi> Si ivSix^ai: irXovTOvffi yap xai oi jroXXol tQv 


" Cf. S. H. Butcher Aspects of the Greek Genius^ p. 73. 

' Pol. V 8 1838 al rb Si o'xoXii^o' ?xeiv airi SoKei T-rjv iiSoviiv Kal TTfi 
eiSaifwvlav xal rb ^v yuaxaptus. 

^ Pol. iv 14 1384 a 14 tAos y&p ffxoMi &(rxo\ias. 

* Plato Bep. ii 374 bod asks ^ repl rbv trSkefwv Ayuvla oi TexwxT) 
SoKei etvai; Cf. Newman, Introduction p. 113. 

" Cf. Aelian V. H. x 14 •^ Apyla dSeKifiii rijs iXevdeptas. Ar. Pol. iv 9 


and even citizenship a profession"; and though we need not 
suppose that any state reached this ideal, yet the rich man 
was able to find leisure for the discharge of his political 
duties, while the poor man could ill afford to sacrifice the 

The quality which the Greeks called ^avava-ia in- 
volved more than the denial of leisure ; it implied positive 
defects which degraded the banausic man. Aristotle gives 
a definition of the term. 'That work or art or science 
must be considered banausic, which unfits the body or 
mind of free men for the employment and practice of 
virtue. Wherefore such arts as cause a worse condition 
of the body and works done for profit, we call banausic. 
For they deprive the mind of leisure and debase it^'.' 

In their effects on the body banausic arts were re- 
garded as a positive disqualification for the practice of 
warlike pursuits". To this feeling, combined with the 
natural feeling of superiority felt by the rich towards the 
poor, we may attribute to a great extent the contempt of 
the higher classes for the lower orders". 

1329 a 1 Sei yap (T^oX^s Kal Trpbs ttjv yheaai t^s dper^i koX vpos rhs TrpA^eis 
tAs TToXtri/cds. 

" Plato Mep. 374 e ; Laws 846 d e. 

'2 This explains the importance to democracies of pay in the law 
courts and assembly. 

13 Pol. V 2 1337 b 8 : cf. iv 9 1329 a 20. 

" Cf. Plato Rep. ii 374 o D and especially ib. vi 495 D ; Xen. Oec. 4 2 
a'i ye papavaiKcd KaXoi/xevai, (T4xvii,i,)...KaTaKv/iali>ovTat ri, aiSiiui,Ta...avayK6.- 
^ovaaL KadrjcdaL Kal crKi.aTpa<pe'ux8ai, Iviai Se Kal vpbs trvp Tjixepeiuv. Cf. 
Bacon Essay 29 (quoted by Newman, Introduction p. 105) 'Sedentary 
and within door arts... have in their nature a contrariety to a military 

1* Some of the epithets of abuse throw some light on class feeling. 
Thus SeCKos (which occurs in Homer, Hesiod and Theognis) was chosen, 


But the effects of banausic employments on the mind 
were considered more serious. They enslaved the soul"; 
they reduced those who practised them to the level of the 
non-citizens, the slaves and aliens; they deprived them of 
freedom of action and compelled them to live at the dis- 
posal of others". They were, in fact, assumed to degrade 
the mind as they degraded the body and to render men 
unfit for the duties of political life^l 

The oligarch assumed then that wealth and leisure 
were necessary conditions of citizenship : that they con- 
ferred higher political ability than could be possessed by 
those who were compelled to gain a living by the exercise 
of laborious arts. The aristocrat went further and re- 
garded money-making, whether pursued by industry or 
by commerce, as unworthy of a free man and as a posi- 
tive disqualification for citizenship. In this respect, also, 
there was a marked contrast between the military aristo- 
cracy and the commercial oligarchy : for the former set a 
ban upon the arts and professions by which the latter was 
maintained ; and the sentiment of the philosophers in 
this respect is entirely aristocratic'". 

perhaps because it implied a craven, 'warless' man. So iroviipb! and 
HoxSitfoi may originally have had the same idea as /Sdrauiros. 

18 Xen. Mem. iv 2 22. 

" Ar. Rhet. i 9 1367 a 31 i\ev0ipov rh it,ii irpbs S,\\or ^v. (The same 
passage furnishes a humorous illustration of Greek feeling. It was 
considered the mark of a free man at Lacedaemou to wear the hair long 
oil y&p iffnv xo/uivTa pq.diov oiSiv woietv Ipyov $r]TiK6v,) Cf. Pol. V 2 
1387 b 17. 

1^ Xen. Oec. 4 2 twv d^ cu^Ttav QrjKvvop.h'iav koX aX ^vx^-l Tro\ii &ppoj- 
ffrdrepai ytyvofTai. 

^ Plato and Aristotle do not regard xi"ll'''"'i^l''^ yiith more favour 
than they regarded industry generally. In this respect they were 
entirely at variance with oligarchic sentiment. 


But both constitutions agreed in requiring for citizen- 
ship some definite qualifications other than free birth, and 
in thus drawing an absolute line between citizen and non- 
citizen. They differed from democracy, moreover, in their 
whole conception of the method of government ; and in 
every detail of the constitution, in the appointment of 
magistrates, in the powers conferred upon them, in the 
question of sovereignty, they showed their divergence 
from the democratic theory. But the full treatment of 
these subjects must be reserved to a later chapter °''. 

^ See chapter v. 

The Causes of Constitutional Change. 

§ 13. The Variety of Oreek Constitutions. 

It would be difficult to assign a cause for the countless 
variety of constitutions that were to be found in the 
different Hellenic communities. The fact that each city 
formed an independent state and pursued its own political 
development made constitutional experiments easy and 
frequent; and the character of the Greeks and their 
political ability ensured an originality and diversity in 
these experiments. 

'Infinite time,' says Plato, 'is the maker of cities'; 
and the origin of the old traditional monarchies and aris- 
tocracies is as difficult to trace in Greece as elsewhere. 
Many Greek states could, however, set dates to the in- 
vention of their constitutions : they recorded the time 
when some lawgiver cleared away the fabric of the old 
institutions. to build up a new government on new prin- 
ciples that broke entirely with the past. Moreover the 
Greek cities could not all boast prehistoric foundations : 
the colonies, which sporadically diffused Greek influence 
from the eastern shores of the Pontus to Massalia, from 
Thrace to Libya, were planted at dates which the Greeks 


themselves pretended to fix, and many of them at a time 
when constitutional changes had already begun in Greece. 
Hence there is a radical distinction to be drawn 
between the old constitutions of prehistoric origin, con- 
secrated by prescription, and the governments, invented in 
a later age, founded on the deliberate principles of a law- 
giver or instituted in imitation of the laws of some other 
state. The ' historical constitutions,' gradually and spon- 
taneously developed, had a far greater chance of per- 
manence than the 'constitutions of recent invention'.' 
Governments like those of Sparta and Crete owed a 
great deal of the credit which they enjoyed with the 
Greeks to their stability. New ideas had not proved 
able to break their continuity; status and custom had 
not given place to contract and progress^ But in other 
states the course of civilisation and the alteration of 
political conditions had brought in the age of discussion ; 
social forces had been given free play, constitutional changes 
were frequent and produced the diversity of governments, 
which formed a striking contrast to the uniformity of type 
in the early states. 

§ 14. The Causes determining the form of a Constitution. 

All constitutions are the result either of spontaneous 
growth or of deliberate invention: in either case they 
must be adapted to the community in which they exist. 
Forms of government are not equally applicable to all 
states ; and it is only their relative fitness that preserves 

' On the 'historical' and the 'a priori constitutions' see Maine, 
Popular Government p. 172. 

' See Bagehot, Physics and Politics, passim. 


the old constitutions from change in the one case, or 
renders the new constitutions acceptable in the other. 
There must be a predominance of consent, and in case 
the community be divided, the supporters of the govern- 
ment must be stronger than its opponents'. They must 
also have force to maintain it ; for ' force is an absolutely 
essential element of all law whatever. Law is nothing 
but regulated force, subjected to particular conditions".' 
Those classes, then, in which this element of force resides 
will naturally predominate and we arrive at the priiiciple 
enunciated (with qualifications) by J. S. Mill: 'The 
government of a country, it is affirmed, is in all sub- 
stantial respects fixed and determined beforehand by the 
state of the country in regard to the distribution of the 
elements of social power. Whatever is the strongest 
power in society will obtain the governing authority ; 
and a change in the political constitution cannot be 
durable unless preceded or accompanied by an altered 
distribution of power in society itself Mill further 
defines the elements of power to be (besides the strength 
of numbers) property and intelligence and organisation; 
and the power must be not quiescent but active power, 
actually exerted'. If we add to this definition the ele- 
ment of prescription, the strength which the undisputed 
possession of authority gives to a class, which has been 
for some time in control of government, we may accept 

■ ^ Ar. Pol. vi 12 1296 b 14 del yap Kpetrrov ehai rd ^ouXS/tevov /i^pos t^s 
iriXews toC p,^ pov}\.op.ivov p-iveiv tV iroKirdav : ef. iv 9 1329 a 11; viii 9 
1309 b 16. Xen. Hell, ii B 19 Theramenes says bpSi dio tcI ivavnili- 
rara irpi/rTOvras, ^midv re T17V i.px>iv Kal iJTTOva Twv &pxoiJ.hiuv KaracTKeva- 

2 Sir J. P. Stephen, Liberty Equality amd Fraternity'^, p. 239. 
' Representative Government eh. 1. 


and apply the principle. Aristotle was not far from 
realising the same theory. He, also, traces the varieties 
of constitutions to varieties in the social system ; every 
city has different elements and classes*: there are rich 
and poor ; some are armed, some unarmed ; there are 
differences in the working classes, differences in the 
notables'; and changes in the strength of social classes 
tend to bring about changes in the constitution^. 

§ 15. Changes of Constitutions effected from within. 

Constitutional changes either proceed from within the 
community or are imposed from without : they are caused 
either by the conflict of social forces or by the violent in- 
terference of a foreign power^. To consider first the 
changes promoted from within, it is obvious that the 
history of constitutions reflects the general history of the 
race ; and constitutional developments must be traced to 
the movements, social and economic, military or religious, 
which mark the progress or decline of a nation. These 
movements will be alluded to more fully in the next 
chapter, but a few general points may be noticed. 

It follows from the definition of oligarchy and demo- 
cracy as the governments of the few rich and of the many 

* Pol. vi 12 1296 b 16 iari 5c irasa irb'Kii Ik re toO ffoioC xal rod TotroO. 
X^w 5^ troLbif liMv ^Xevdepiav ttXoutov TraiSeiav eOyivcLaVj iroirbv S^ ttjp tov 
TrX'^dovs vTepox^v. 

» Pol. vi 3 1289 b 27. 

6 Pol. viii 3 1302 b 33. What Aristotle says (ib. vii 1 1317 a 20) of 
varieties of democracy, is true of other constitutions also. Variation is 
due (1) to difference in the population, (2) to different combinations of 
the elements of government. 

^ Ar. Pol. viii 7 1307 b 20 TrSirai S' al iroXiTcicu \iovTai ori nkv i^ airwv, 
oTi «' i^wBev. Of. also Plato Rep. viii 556 e. 


poor that economic changes must have been the most 
frequent cause that gave birth to these constitutions and 
effected revolutions in them. Originally land wras the 
sole source of wealth and each state was for the most 
part self-sufficient and self-supporting. While this con- 
dition prevailed power remained with the landowners, but 
the diffusion of the Greek race in colonies, the spread of 
commerce and navigation, the introduction of money as a 
medium of exchange, altered the distribution of wealth 
and tended to raise the commercial and industrial classes 
to an equality with the landholding aristocracy. Hence- 
forth economic forces had free play, and to these forces the 
changes in the strength of classes must be chiefly at- 
tributed. Aristotle mentions the narrowing of oligarchies 
caused by the concentration of property in the hands of a 
few"; and the gradual development of democracy, as a 
consequence of the alteration in the value of moneys. 
Another cause of change lay in the actual decrease of the 
numbers of different classes. Instances are quoted of the 
loss suffered by the better classes in war leading to 
democracy*, while the tendency within governments 
based on birth was to narrow the number of the privi- 

Military changes have often been instrumental in 
effecting political revolutions. On the one hand the 

2 Pol. viii 7 1307 a 29. 

3 Pol. viii 6 1306 b 9. 

* Pol. viii 3 1302 b 33 ylvovrai. Se koI 5i' atfli^iru' rijv irapk rb dvdXoyop 
jCierajSoXai rue roXiTeiuv. He refers to the disproportionate increase of the 
Sijiios and cites instances of the losses of the yvibpi.iJ.oi in war ; and then 
says ffiii^auiei. Si Kal iv rats dri/ju>KpaTlai.s, ^ttov Si' irXeidviai' yiip Si] twv 
iiirbpiav yivopAvav fj tSiv oinwv ai^avoiUviav jj,eTapdWov<ri.v els dXiyapxlas xal 
Svvaarelas. He cites several instances ; cf, also Ath. Pol. 26 1. 

W. 4 



military superiority of an invading race, either in tactics 
or in equipment, may make them masters of the state, 
and to this superiority the 'aristocracies of conquest' 
within Greece owed their origin. On the other hand 
military causes may affect the strength of classes within 
states. Aristotle associates oligarchy with cavalry and 
hoplites, democracy with light-armed troops and the 
fleet'; the introduction of hoplite tactics led to the ad- 
mission of more men to citizenship'; the rise of maritime 
power favoured the advance of democracy', and at a later 
date the introduction of mercenary soldiers broke down in 
some degree the power of the richer classes, who had 
previously formed the main strength of the hoplites. 

Religion is a force of the utmost importance in an 
early state of society. There is then no clear separation 
of the sacred and the profane ; and in Greece the rulers 
were also the priests. Under these conditions the political 
power of the nobles cannot be broken, as long as they 
alone can mediate with the gods: and it needed the break- 
up of religious privilege and the introduction of new cults 
to dissolve the old aristocracies and render democracy 
possible*. Closely connected with this movement was 
the overthrow of tribal organisation and of local in- 

The causes hitherto considered in this section have 

= Pol. vii 7 1321 a 6 ff. 

' Pol. fi 13 1297 b 23 tQv iv rots ottXois UrxvffdvTai' /laWov T^elovs 
fierelxo^ "^V^ TToXtretas. 

i" Pol. viii 4 1304 a 22. See [Xen.] Resp. Ath. 1 2. 

* On this subject the monograph of Fnstel De Coulauges La Cite 
Antique should of course be consulted, although the author tends to 
exaggerate the importance of religious forces by excluding other con- 


been those which operated mainly on social forces. But 
when once the old aristocracies had been broken down 
and the era of political conflict had begun, there were 
factions to be reckoned with in every state. Parties in 
Greece, so far as they were definitely distinguished, were 
divided mainly by constitutional preferences. I called 
attention in the last chapter to the irreconcilable con- 
tentions of numbers and property, of oligarchs and 
democrats; and this opposition was the cause of that 
deeply-rooted political malady, which the Greeks called 
cTTao-t?®. In almost every state the two factions were to be 
found ; and unless one of them had a decisive superiority 
over the other", there was a constant struggle for political 
power, the government being the prize at stake". In 
the bitterness of party feeling help was sought by the 
disaifected from other states, and in this way ' influences 
from without ' cooperated with ' causes from within.' 

§ 16. Changes of Constitutions effected from without. 

In the early period of Greek History the most impor- 
tant changes were effected by the conquest of an invading 
race, who dispossessed or reduced the previous inhabitants 

^ Plato Rep, viii 645 i> Tratra TroXtreta /zerajSaXXet i^ aiJroG tov ?x**''^**s 
Tcts dpx^Si orav iv a{rr^ (rriffii iyy^vTjrau Thucydides (iii 82) gives the 
most forcible and incisive description of ariuLS. 

"> This was the case at Athens for almost the whole history of her 
democracy. There was, of course, the antithesis of oligarchs and demo- 
crats there (cf. Plut. Per. 11), but as I have argued in a previous essay. 
Political Parties, pp. 34 — 5, parties there were divided more by questions 
of the day than by fixed principles. 

^^ Thuc. iii 82 ot yhp ie reus iriXetrt wpoiTTdvTes /xer' dvifiaros iKarepoL 
evirpeTTOvs, irXridous re Iffovofiias Tr6\LTLiajs Kal apuTTOKparias crilf^povos irpoTi- 
fi-^(reif TO, ^h Kotva "Xiycp 6epaTre6ovTes a6\a kiroiodvTO. 

. 4—2 


and established their own power, as an aristocracy, ruling 
in virtue of their conquest and of their power to maintain 
what they had won. In later times there are few instances 
in which conquest reduced a people to a state of absolute 
subjection, but in many cases the form of the constitution 
was determined either by the active interference of a 
foreign power or by the support given to one faction in 
the state against the other^. 

Hence the constitutional changes of the weaker states 
were closely connected with the supremacy of different 
powers, and Persia, Athens, Sparta, Thebes and Macedon 
all had their influence oa the constitutions of many cities'''. 
This is but one instance of the assimilation of constitu- 
tions, which tended to introduce some unity of form into 
the numberless states of Greece. Besides the assimilation 
of subject to ruler, we may note the influence of the same 
tendency in tribal federations, like those of Thessaly, 
Boeotia or Crete', in political alliances*, in towns not 

^ Cf. Plato Rep. viii 556 e ^ ir6\is...i^iii6ei' iirayoixivav fi twv iripav i^ 
SKi.yapxoviihT]S irSXeois ^v/j-naxia" V tQ" iripuv iK STifiOKpaTOViiivT]S...avTij 
airy n&xerai. Ar. Pol. viii 7 1307 b 20 ai xoXiTBoi...XiiovTai...?{u96c, 
l^Tdv ^vavria -jroXiTeia y, ^ ir\'/i{7iov 7J irbppw fi^v ^x^^^^ ^^ S6vafiiv, The 
Peloponnesian war affords many illustrations of this. 

2 Cf. Ar. Fol. vi 11 1296 a 32 in Si koX tQv ev riye/ioflq, y^voiiivav ttjs 
'EXXdSos Trpbs ttjv irap airdis ^KdrepoL TTo\t,rcla,v a-jro^X^irovTes ol fihf Sij- 
fWKpaTLas iv rats iroKeai Kadiffraffav, ol 5' 6\Lyapx^o.s. For the particular 
influence of Athens and Sparta see below § 18. 

2 Crete offers a good instance. Although there was no permanent 
union of the Cretan cities, their constitutions were so homogeneous that 
Aristotle and other ancient writers habitually talk of ' Cretan ' magistrates 
and institutions. Swoboda, Griechische Volksbeschl&sse p. 30, calls atten- 
tion to the 'local style' of the Cretan decrees. 

* Athens and Sparta afford the best illustration. See below § 18 n. 3. 
There was a double Influence at work, for states sought the alliance of 


connected by any bond save that of locality^ and in 

§ 17. Constitutions in the Colonies. 

The constitutions of the different colonies were new 
creations, not developed from preceding historical con- 
ditions, but instituted concurrently with the foundation 
of the state. Colonies were cities without a past and 
offered therefore the best ground for constitutional ex- 
periments. Under normal circumstances it would be 
natural for the colonists to transfer to their new home 
the political ideas and institutions of the mother city. 
It is easier to reproduce than to innovate ; and in the 
absence of contrary motives, if circumstances permitted, 
the government of the colony was a reflection of that 
of the metropolis. But it might be impossible or un- 
desirable to adhere to the social divisions or political 
organisation, that had been left behind. Many colonies 
were composed of citizens of mixed race ; and this would 
prevent them from establishing the social or tribal di- 
visions of the mother country : others again were founded 
by a class in revolt against the aristocracy ; and these 
would be unlikely to recognise the privilege of noble 
birth. Many of the colonies, therefore, adapted the 
constitution to the new conditions, and there were special 

cities of similar constitution, and worked at the same time to establish 
their own form of government among their allies. 

° The towns of Italy and Sicily offer an instance of states politically 
independent of one another adopting similar institutions. Of. Swoboda 
op. cit. p. 30. This was in part due to the influence of lawgivers, on 
which see below § 20. 


forms of government, produced by these conditions, which 
lasted for a long time in the colonies*. 

§ 18. The influence of Athens and Sparta. 

The establishment of democracy at Athens and her 
rise to power in the fifth century led to a rivalry and 
division of empire between that city and Sparta. Hence- 
forth there were two great powers in Greece, who sought 
by supremacy or federation to unite other states with 
themselves and thus to correct in some degree the 
permanent tendencies to separate autonomy, which pre- 
vailed generally in Greece. Many motives combined to 
effect such a cleavage, Athens and Sparta were opposed 
in every way, by race, by traditions, by character and by 
policy : but there was no stronger force at work than the 
opposition of principles of government. Sparta in cha- 
racter and constitution presented a form of aristocracy, 
almost unique in Greece, but in the general antithesis 
of democracy and oligarchy, minor differences were for- 
gotten, and the Peloponnesian confederacy included 
commercial states, like Corinth and Megara, which, in 
many ways, must have felt more in sympathy with the 
enterprise and energy of Athens, than with the barbarous 
military system of Sparta^. The two leading states 

1 Of forms of government specially found in colonies we may note 
the ' oligarcliies of first settlers, of the kingly house, and of fixed number.' 
See Chapter iv. 

' Corinth and Megara were doubtless thrown into alliance with 
Sparta by a feeling of commercial rivalry towards Athens (Megara in 
fact must have been democratic when she joined the confederacy) ; and 
they can have had little community of sentiment with Sparta. At the 
same time the oligarchs of Corinth, for example, would have been loath 


appeared at once as the champions and standards of 
the political principles that they professed. Within their 
own confederacies it was only natural that they should 
foster the governments with which they were in sym- 
pathy ; and alliance with one or other of the great powers 
often determined for lesser states the fate of their consti- 
tution^. In the fifth century, when the empire of Greece 
was divided between Athens and Sparta, each state strove 
to introduce some uniformity of constitution into their 
own alliance, and in case of faction their support was 
assured to the party representing their own principles'. 
By the beginning of the Peloponnesian war the only mem- 
bers of the Delian confederacy that are known to have 
been oligarchic were Lesbos and Chios*. The rest were 
subject to Athens, and had either adopted a democratic 
constitution or had had institutions similar to those of 
Athens forced upon them°. In the Peloponnesian con- 
to enter into union with a state so active in the support of democracies 
as Athens. 

2 The fate of Cos may be regarded as typical. We first hear of it as 
governed by a tyrant under Persian sway; it was probably democratic 
while in the Delian confederacy, oligarchic at the end of the war, demo- 
cratic and in the Athenian alliance after Cnidus, oligarchic after revolt 
from Athens in 357. (I have accepted the inferences drawn by Gilbert, 
Handbuch ii pp. 172—3.) 

3 Ar. Pol. viii 7 1307 b 23 ol nh yap 'AOrivam iravraxov ras 6\iyapxias, 
oi Si AdKuves Tois S^puivs KariXvov. See § 26. 

■• Mitylene was oligarchic (cf. Thuc. iii 27). Chios Gilbert {Handbuch 
ii p. 153) thinks was democratic. There is, I think, no evidence for this ; 
and the narrative in Thuc. iv 58, viii 24 and 38 seems to me to imply 
the existence of oligarchy. 

" The events of the first half of the fifth century, the delivery from 
Persia, the overthrow of the tyrants, the spread of trade etc., must 
have favoured democracy. In many states we can trace the deliberate 
introduction of Athenian institutions; and Miletus had even adopted 


federacy Sparta left autonomy to her allies^, but she 
took good care that they should be governed by oligarchies 
well disposed to herself, and it is clear that democracy 
was an ' inconvenient ' form of government, the correction 
of which was demanded by Spartan interests, wherever 
it was possible". At the beginning of the war Megara, 
Elis and Mantinea were her only democratic allies of 
importance. The Peloponnesian war was a conflict be- 
tween the opposing principles of the two governments', 
and as the fortunes of either side rose or fell, the cause of 
democracy or oligarchy was advanced. But even after 
Athens and Sparta had ceased to exercise supremacy 
over other states, they still remained the refuge, and 
support of democrats and oligarchs^" ; and while their 
help was always ready to further the cause that they 

the Athenian tribes and demes. (The evidence, which is epigraphic, is 
quoted by Gilbert, Handbuch ii p. 141 n. 1.) Interference with constitu- 
tions was especially forbidden in the second Athenian Confederacy: 
G. I. A. ii 17 (Hicks, Inscriptions 81). 

* Sparta always posed as the champion of autonomy. See § 49 n. 8. 

' The principle is stated by Thuc. i 19. Cf. i 76 where the Athenians 
say v/j.eis yovVj tu AaKedaijibvioL, ras Iv ry JleXo7rovi^ri(r<^ irdXcts iirl t6 iijuv 
ili<j>4\iiJL0v KaTacrT7j(rdfi.evoL e^ye!<r6e. Cf. also i 44. 

^ Thuc. V 81 2 (In Argos) 6\iyapxia iTTiTiiSela. tois AaKedai/iodoi-s 
KaTia-nj. Cf. ib. 82 1. I think ^ttit-^Seios and dvewiT'qSei.os must have been 
cant oligarchic terms, used to describe people or governments not in 
sympathy with oligarchy. Besides the two passages cited above we find 
iTTiT-fideios used in the same association in i 19; i 144 ((r(pi<ri....imT7iSelas 
aiTovo/ji.eT<rSai.); viii 63 4 (Alcibiades was considered oiK liri.TTiSei.oi...h 
dXiyapx^i") ; 70 2 and iveinrriSews in viii 65 2. 

^ I have collected some evidence on this subject in Political Parties, 
pp. 32 — 4 and notes. 

'" This is illustrated by the history of the fourth century. Cf. Isocr. 
iv 16 T&v yap "EWfivav oi fihi iicj) T)Ixlv, oi S' inrh AaKedaifiovlois eMv al yap 
TToXiTCiat, di ajv oIkov<7l rds irdXets, ovtw roiis TrXeffTTOVs avrwv dLeL\7i(pa(rit'. 


professed, they offered models of imitation to other 

§ 19. The admiration for the Spartan Constitution. 

The other Greeks combined with one consent to praise 
the Spartan constitution. It must be said that their 
admiration would probably not have been so uaqualified 
had they had a better acquaintance with its principles 
or a personal experience of its working. The policy of 
secrecy, the exclusion of strangers, the little intercourse 
that the Spartans ever had with other Greeks, covered 
Sparta in a veil of mystery, which concealed her faults 
and exaggerated her virtues. People were familiar, at 
least by repute, with the famous institutions of Lycurgus, 
and the rigorous practice of virtue, by which every Sparti- 
ate devoted himself to the service of his fatherland. They 
were impressed by the success of the state in war, by the 
glorious position she won for herself in Greece, and above 
all they marvelled at the long continuance of her consti- 
tution, amidst the constant changes and revolutions of the 
democracies and oligarchies of other states. They did not 
realise the sacrifices demanded by the system ; the galling 
tyranny of the military training ; the suppression of indivi- 
duality ; the renunciation of the graces of life ; the squalid 
barbarity of many of her customs, and the inward 
corruption of the very principles she professed. It was 
not till late in the fourth century, when Sparta lost even 
her military supremacy, that people began to find her 

" The influence of Sparta will be discussed more fully. On Athens 
of. Dem. xxiv 210 ttoXXoI t&v 'EXXijcaiv TroXXdifis elalv i\p'ri4>uTii,hoi, roir 


out^ and to recognise how little worthy she was of the 
extravagant praises bestowed upon her. 

But before the downfall of Sparta her government com- 
manded almost universal admiration. Aristotle speaks 
of earlier writers who left all other constitutions out 
of view while they praised that of Lacedaemoii ^. Plato 
spoke of ' the generally-praised Cretan and Lacedaemonian 
constitutions ' : and though he is by no means blind to 
the faults of Sparta his ideal state is built upon a similar 
frameworks Thucydides refers to the long continuance 
of a well-ordered constitution at Sparta", and Xenophon 
makes Critias (himself the author of the first treatise 
on the Spartan state) refer to the general opinion that 
the government of Sparta was the best'. 

But although admired it is doubtful whether the 
Spartan constitution was imitated. Pindar refers to the 
city of Aetna being founded ' in laws of the norm of 
Hyllus ' and remaining ' under the ordinances of Aegi- 

1 Of. Ar. Pol. iv 14 1333 b 21 Kalroi. SiiXof us ^TreiS?; vvv ye oiiKh-i 
vtrdpxet- Tots Ad.KCi)aL rb &.pxeiv, oOk eOdaifjioves, ou5' 6 vofjiodh-7]s 6,yadbs. 

Sir Frederick Pollock, History of the Science of Politics p. 11 n. 1, 
expresses himself on the Spartans with a frankness that is refreshing. 
' The Spartans have had their day of glorification from rhetoricians and 
second-hand scholars. To me they have always appeared the most 
odious impostors in the whole history of antiquity,... with aU their pre- 
tentious discipline they produced in the whole course of their wars only 
two officers, who are known to have been gentlemen, Brasidas and 

2 Pol. vi 1 1288 b 41; iv 14 1333 b 12. The political theorists of the 
fourth century regarded Sparta as the ideal military state ; see Meyer, 
Geschichte des Alterthums ii p. 564. 

" Rep. viii 544 c. See Newman, Introduction pp. 400 — 1. 
" i 18; cf. iii 57. 

' Xen. Hell, iii 3 4. Xenophon himself wrote a panegyric of the 
Lycurgean state {Resp. Lac.). 

§ 20] LAWGIVERS. 59 

mius": and he describes Aegina as governed under 
'the norm of Hyllus and Aegimius'.' But these are 
probably merely conventional methods of praise ; a 
government founded on so rigid a system, as that of 
Sparta, was not for general application. There were 
colonies in which we can trace the existence of the 
so-called Dorian tribes, the division of classes, as in 
the Dorian states and other Dorian institutions^: but 
the essential features of a military aristocracy, based 
on a strict training, the separation of classes and occu- 
pations Sparta shared, so far as we know, only with Crete. 

§ 20. Lawgivers. 

The method by which important changes of constitu- 
tion were effected in early times was most often the 
appointment of a single man, entrusted with full powers 
to revise the constitution and to draw up a code of laws. 
The practice was so fully in accord with Greek sentiment 
that the earliest constitutions were often connected with 
the name of some individual, although they may have 
arisen naturally and spontaneously from the circumstances 
of the community'. In the history of early societies a time 
comes when it is felt necessary to reduce the old un- 
written laws to order and to publish them, when revised, 
in a code". In Greece this work was usually effected in 
each state by a single man, and as the development of 

« Pyth. i 61. 

' Fr. i (Bockh). 

* Cf. Heraclea in Pontus, Byzantium, Chalcedon. 

1 Cf. the unsolved cLuestiou of Lyourgus and his work. 

" Maine, Ancient Law pp. 14 ff. 


society had made reform essential, such an one was usually 
given indefinite powers to readjust the constitution. Even 
in later times when further reforms were necessary the 
same process was sometimes employed. The absolute 
authority entrusted to the legislators induced Aristotle 
to regard men of this class as tyrants', although their 
appointment was intended to prevent tyranny by a 
reconciliation of factions. Either a citizen was chosen 
to reform the constitution of his own state, as Draco, 
Solon and Cleisthenes at Athens, Pittacus at Mitylene, 
Epimenes in Miletus, and Zaleucus in Locri ; or a stranger 
was called in, as one who would be free from party feeling 
and might introduce the institutions of some more wisely 
ordered state. Thus Charondas legislated for many of 
the states of Sicily and Italy*; Philolaus of Corinth for 
Thebes'^ and Demonax of Mantinea for Cyrene'. In the 
consideration of lawgivers we must not omit the founders 
of colonies: the oecist must often have been aesymnete, 
and nothing affords a better proof of the political talent of 
the Greeks than the institution of well-ordered and syste- 
matic government in so many colonies. 

In some cases we can trace the influence of philosophers 
on legislation. Pythagoras affords a notable instance of 
the philosopher in politics, but his action was directed 
more to influence the rulers than to alter the constitu- 

3 Ar. Pol. iii 14 1285 a 30, (the office of alaviirfirqs is defined as 
alperfi rvpavvts) ; ib. ii ch. 12 gives a general account of the ancient 
legislators. Of. Plato JRep. x 599 n e. 

^ See Plato cited in the last note. 

5 Ar. Pol. ii 12 1274 a 22 and 31. 

^ Hdt. iv 161, Demonax seems to have made some effort to adapt 
Spartan institutions to the needs of Gyrene. 

§ 20] LAWGIVERS. 61 

tion'. Strabo suggests that the good order of Elea was 
due to Parmenides and Zeno^ There were political 
theorists before Socrates; but the most prominent of 
them, the Sophists, were ' in the anti-social camp".' The 
masters of political philosophy came too late for their 
teaching to be realised in practice, if we except the 
attempt of Dion to found a philosophic state" and the 
possible influence of philosophic ideals on such men as 
Epaminondas", Archytas and Timoleon. 

One other factor of constitutional change must not be 
omitted ; the pretence of a return to an ' ancestral con- 
stitutional' It is easier to effect a revolution, if it be 
represented as a return to the past; and though the 
Greeks were not particularly moved by sentimental 
admiration for the archaic, the fiction of the restoration 
of ancient forms of government was put forward especially 
by oligarchs who wished to overthrow the later growths 
of a democracy". 

' Newman, Introduction p. 377. Pythagoras breathed 'a new and 
more ethical spirit into the rule of the Few.' 

8 Strabo vi 252. 

' Newman, Introduction, p. 391. 

i» Plut. Dion 53. 

11 Ar. Rhet. ii 23 1398 b 18 'Thebes never flourished till she was ruled 
by philosophers.' 

" Of. Ar. Pol. ii 8 1268 b 26 ff. on ol Trdrpioi v6fi.oi. 

13 The oligarchies at Athens were established under a pretext of the 
restoration of the old democracy. Cf. Ar. Ath. Pol. 29 3; 34 3; Xen. 
Hell, ii 3 2; iii 4 2; Died, xiv 3. 


The Historical Development of Constitutions. 

§ 21. The origin of Constitutions. 

I PRO(JEED to consider the process of constitutional de- 
velopment, tracing in a brief outline the general course 
of political change and dwelling only on such matters as 
illustrate the genesis or character of oligarchies. 

The Greek writers gave different accounts of the cycle 
of governments. With Plato' and Polybius'' the order is 
drawn up more in accordance with the relative merit of 
the different forms than in agreement with their succession 
in point of time. Aristotle's account is nearer to facts but 
it is too absolute''; as all states did not go through the 
same cycle in the same order: but there is still enough 
truth in it to make it applicable to the majority of those 
constitutions which did pass through the ordinary stages 
of development. 

' Plato Rep. viii 544 o (criticised by Ar. Pol. viii 12 1316 b). 

2 Polyb. vi 4 7 ; vi 9 10 ; aiirTj ttoKith&v dvaKiinXaats, aUrri (piaem 
olKovoiila. Maohiavelli, First Decade of T. Livius ch. 2, also describes 
' the sphear and circle in which all Eepublios have, and do move ' and his 
order of succession is also a priori. 

3 Ar. Pol. iii 15 1286 b. 


Aristotle starts with the heroic age, and we also must 
assume it as ' a primary fact for the purpose of following 
out its subsequent changes' without speculating on 'its 
antecedent causes and determining conditionsV while we 
leave the difficult subject of the government of the tribal 
community out of view^. Aristotle was aware that other 
forms of union had preceded the state of the Homeric 
age, and his account of village settlements and their 
government at the beginning of the first book is not 
out of harmony with modern theories. It is important, 
however, to keep clearly before us that cities were gene- 
rally formed by the coalescence of several communities : 
that each, in fact, was a federation of smaller aggregates, 
which were in many cases tribal unions^ This is a fact 
of the utmost importance for the comprehension of early 
constitutions, in which the conflict of city and tribe was 
waged throughout the whole of the period of aristo- 

§ 22. The Heroic Monarchy. 

The heroic monarchy, as depicted in the Homeric 
poems, contains both in the powers of government and 
in the social classes the germs of later forms of consti- 

■• Grote ii p. 59 — 'To conceive absolute beginning or origin ia beyond 
the reach of our faculties: we can neither apprehend nor verify any- 
thing beyond progress or development or decay.' In pushing our investi- 
gations back we must ultimately come to facts which defy analysis or 
explanation. The origin of social classes is one of these facts. Cf. 
Freeman, Comparative Politics pp. 247 ff. 

» On this see W. W. Fowler, The City State ch. 2. 

5 De Coulanges, La Cit4 Antique^" pp. 143 — 4. 


tution*. We find that the orders of society are divided 
almost as definitely as castes, and these must be accepted 
as established institutions, the origin of which, like the 
origin of classes in general, is beyond our power to explain. 
The king and the chiefs form together the first class of 
nobles. The king is supreme in power and honour, but 
he differs from the other chiefs only in degree, not in 
kindl King and nobles share the knowledge and practice 
of law and the science of things divine. The king is the 
chief leader in war, the nobles are the great warriors 
fighting from their chariots in front of the host of the 
commons, who hurl their weapons from a distance. 

But king and nobles are separated by a broad distinc- 
tion from the two other classes. Of these the general 
mass of freemen, practising different crafts' or cultivating 
their own lots of land, rank next in importance. Below 
them come the poor freemen, Thetes, working for hire, 
chiefly on the lands of other men*. They were paid in 

' I assume that the picture of government and society presented by 
Homer corresponded in the main with the actual state of Greece in the 
so-called 'Achaean' period. There is an excellent sketch of Homeric 
Society in Grote Part i ch. 20. 

2 The nobles like the king are called j3a<ri\^es and avaKres, while the 
superior degree of the kingly race is declared by the title paaiXeirepos 
(II. ii 101; ix 160) or ^aa-iXeuraTos (xx 34). In Cyprus in historical times 
the actual kings were called /SacriXcis, their kindred aca/cres (Aristotle 
F. H. G. ii 203); ^acrtXldac was the name of the nobility in some states. 

^ d7}fiLO€pyoL 

* Photius S.J). 6t)s defines them as oi iveKa TpoipTJs SovXeiovres. On 
these and the other class see Grote ii pp. 97 — 100. 

The classes in Homer correspond with the general division of 
'estates' in the European nations. Bluntschli, Theory of the State 
{Engl. Trans.) pp. 113 ff., distinguishes (1) The priests and nobles (who in 
some states formed two separate classes), (2) the freemen, who as a rule 


kind, so that they could not save or accumulate, and as 
their employment was irregular they were in evil plight, 
almost as dependent on their masters as the bought slaves 
(of whom there were but few), while misfortune might 
reduce them eventually to serfdom. 

Society was organised on a patriarchal basis. Many 
petty chieftains, ruling each over his family and depen- 
dents°, each having his hill fort' and each sovereign in 
his own small domain, paid homage to such an overlord 
as Agamemnon. Herein the close connection of monarchy 
and aristocracy is made manifest. The nobles, supreme 
and independent princes in their own domain', in the 
united state formed an aristocracy in which all were 
subject to the king's authority, while in their relation to 

were the owners and tillers of the soil and also took part in trade, (3) 
the estate of dependents occupied with the lower needs of life. Their 
freedom and their rights are less than those of the second class. We may 
compare the class divisions in Attica: it seems doubtful whether there 
is any essential distinction between classes 2 and 3. 

^ The petty chieftains ruled over the tribal communities, formed 
of the ruling yipos and its dependents or slaves. The head of the tribe 
exercised authority over the rest. Cf. Abbott, History of Greece ii p. 11, 
' Patriarchal monarchies derived their origin from the authority of the 
father over his children ; of the chief over his tribe. They were here- 
ditary and continued to be so, as long as certain gifts, sacerdotal or 
judicial, were considered necessary in a king and peculiar to a family.' 

^ Ar. Pol, vi 11 1380 b 19 dKp67roX« SXiyapxiKiv xal iM}va,pxiKbv...&puTTo- 
KpaTLKhv Sk...ixSK\ov laxvpol Tbiroi. TrXelovs. The excavations of the strong- 
holds of the Peloponnese point to the existence of a number of strong 
castles, in which the ruling families dwelt. 

' This wUl explain the appropriateness of the titles /Sao-iX^es and 
AvaKTes applied to them. It is not therefore necessary to suppose that 
such titles were only applied 'in the later passages of the Epos.' Each 
head of a 7^1/os was a ^aixiXeis in his own domain : but in relation to their 
overlord they were yipovres, §ov\ri<l>bpoi,, ijy^opes or niSovres. 

W. 5 


each other they stood on the same level of privilege'. 
Their acknowledgment of one chief as superior to the 
rest may be the justification of Aristotle's statement that 
the heroic king ruled over willing subjects and obtained 
his position by being the benefactor of his people in the 
arts of peace or war*. 

The government of the united state included three 
different powers, the monarch, the council of the nobles, 
the assembly of the commons ; but it is necessary to 
insist that there was nothing like a formal constitution 
at this period. ' There was,' as Grote says, ' no scheme or 
system, do idea of responsibility ; the obedience of the 
subject depends on personal feeling and reverence for the 
chiefs".' The king, who enjoyed a sort of 'divine right",' 
alone exercised individual authority, based on the ascend- 
ency of himself and his race, and though he required the 
consent and support of the other orders and usually ob- 
served the precedents and traditions of his ancestors, it is 
a mistake to say, as Thucydides and Aristotle do, that his 
powers were limited or defined". 

There was no division of political functions between 
different magistrates as there was in later times. War, 
justice and religion were the three spheres of government, 
and in all the king was supreme", though he might 

8 One account that Aristotle gives of the origin of Aristocracy is o-w^- 
jSaive ylveirBai TroWois o/iotovs ivpbs aper^v (Pol. iii 15 128613 12). 
3 Pol. iii 14 1285 b 6. 
i» ii p. 61. 
^^ The <TK7JirTp6v t' ijSi $4/j.i(TTes came from Zeus. 

12 Thuc. i 15 (iirl p-qToh yipaaC) ; Ar. Pol. iii 14 1285 b 5 (Karb. vbixov) 
and 21 (iirl mrl 5' wpia/i4mis) both transfer the ideas of a later age to a 
primitive, undefined government. The idea of vdftos is post-Homeric. 

13 Ar. Pol. iii 14 1285 b 9. It is characteristic of De Coulanges (op. 


delegate part of his powers or take advice from his 

The functions of the Council, in later times the chief 
organ of aristocratic and oligarchic government, were 
purely consultative : but the monarchy rested on the 
support of the nobles, so that it was necessary to seek 
their advice and to treat it with respect. 

The Assembly of the Commons seems to have been 
alike devoid of power or influence. It formed ' a medium 
of publicity without any idea of responsibility,' 'an as- 
sembly for the discussion of the chiefs in the presence 
of the people, an opportunity for promulgation and 
record".' The people expressed their approval or dissent 
of the matters which the king or the nobles brought 
before them by shouting. The place of the Assembly 
in the constitution is illustrated by the method of ad- 
ministering justice. Whether the king himself pronounce 
judgment or whether the power be exercised by the chiefs, 
the trial seems always to have taken place in the agora, 
which thus served the purpose of publicity'^ 

The Homeric constitution represents in its king, its 
council and its assembly, the organs of government after- 
wards found in all Greek states : magistrates, ^ovXrj and 
eKKXrja-la. Where a single magistrate controlled the state, 
monarchy (whether constitutional or despotic) was found. 
In the oligarchies and aristocracies the council represented 

cit. p. 204) to say 'the principal function of a king was to perform 
religious ceremonies.' As a matter of comparison his command in war 
was most important. 

" Grote ii p. 69. 

15 Besides Homer of. Hesiod Op. where the 5o)po4>dyoi §an\9jei give 
judgment (1. 39), apparently in the agora (1. 29). 



the privileged class and directed the government in their 
interest. In the democracy the people made known their 
will in the assembly : but the assembly was no longer the 
mute, submissive gathering of the legendary age, but a 
sovereign body, in which speech was the right of all, and 
speech the motor of government". 

§ 23. Transition from Monarchy to Aristocracy. 

The transition from monarchy to aristocracy took 
place at an early period of history ; the accounts of it are 
largely legendary, and much room is left for speculation 
as to the occasion and cause. But one point is equally 
certain and important. If we put aside aristocracies 
founded on conquest, the change involved no break of 
continuity, no revolution of ideas : it was rarely violent, 
most often gradual, and sometimes almost imperceptible \ 
The explanation lies in the similar character of kingship 
and aristocracy in Greece. ' Aristocracy,' as Montesquieu 
described it, 'is a monarchy with several monarchs': no 
violence was done to men's ideas when the chieftains 
resolved on an equal division of power among themselves. 
The change was in the interests of the nobles, not of the 
commons. 'The revolution was not the work of the 
lower classes, who wished to overthrow the constitu- 
tion of society, but of the aristocracy who wished to 
maintain it".' 

" irappnjaLa was a universal principle of democracy. Of. the descrip- 
tion given by Dem. xix 184 (itt' iv 'Kdyois i] Tro^irela. 

' In the light of the Aristotelian treatise on the Athenian constitu- 
tion, it vrould be difficult, for instance, to mark the date of the end of 
/SacriXeta at Athens. 

^ De Coulanges, op. cit. p. 301. 


The causes of the change can only be considered most 
generally. Aristotle talks of kings surrendering part of 
their powers of their own accord", of a general spread of 
' virtue,' which induced men to found a common constitu- 
tion^ Both of these explanations point to the loss of 
prestige by the king, which brought the overlord to the 
same level as the chiefs. Elsewhere he mentions military 
changes which put power into the hands of ' the knights',' 
who must probably in this connexion be identified with 
the nobles. It was possible too that a weak, unwarlike 
man might become king, and inasmuch as the chief duty 
of the monarch was to command in war, his authority 
would be lost, if he proved unfitted for his duties'; or a 
time of peace might come when no general was required. 

Another cause that can be traced is connected with 
the union of smaller communities to form larger political 
organisations. Such a process, which the Greeks called 
avvoiKia^jiO'i, abolished the separate authority of a 
number of petty princes', who were compensated for 
their loss of independence by the grant of aristocratic 
privileges in the new state. Whether the chief power 
were still held by a king in the new state, mattered 
little: for the privileges of the nobles limited his au- 

3 Pol. iii 14 1285 b 15. 

* Pol. iii 15 1286 b 8 quoted above § 22 n. 8. The passage continues 
oiiK^rt hir^^evop dXK i^riTovv KOLvbv tc Kal iroXireiav Kadiaraffav. 

= Pol. vi 13 1297 b 16. 

^ The cause assigned for the appointment of the iroMnapxos at 
Athens by Ar. Ath. Pol. 3 2 is did, rb yeviadai T<.vd,s tCiv ^aaCKiuv tci. 
TToXefAtKa fjuiKaKois. 

' Bekker Anecdota p. 257 EiiraTptdai, o!.../ieT^o>'Tes /SacriXi/coC yivovs 
preserves a faint trace of the origin of the Athenian nobility from the 
families, which had formerly held kingly rank. See also Plut. Thes. 32. 


thority, and the essential conditions of an aristocracy must 
have been fulfilled'. This process was the triumph of the 
city over the tribe, and it can be best illustrated in the 
history of Athens': but the history of the same State 
shows the repugnance of the nobles to the loss of their 
former local sovereignty, and the tendency to recur to the 
system of separate tribal settlements". 

A special form of aristocracy arose by the transfer of 
supreme power from the single monarch to the kingly 
family, who of their own numbers formed an aristocratic 
class. This subject I discuss more fully below". 

Distinct from all these causes is the conquest of a land 
by an invading race, who, through superiority of tactics or 
better equipment", overcame the former inhabitants of a 
district, and reduced them to serfdom or subjection, while 
the invaders formed a ruling class. Whether the form of 
the constitution was monarchic or not, we may regard it 
as possessing the essentials of an aristocracy in the superior 
privilege of the conquerors in relation to the conquered. 
The Dorian migration established throughout the Pelopon- 
nese a number of states of aristocratic constitution ; and 

8 It seems clear that at Athens the Eupatrids formed a power in the 
state distinct from the king, exercising a check on the absolute authority 
of the monarch. This may be the explanation of the persistent legends 
that Theseus established a 'democratic constitution' and offered a 
'government without a king.' 

^ See Appendix A below. 

1" See Appendix B below. 

" See chapter iv § 33. 

'2 The Dorians perhaps had both advantages. Thus they are credited 
with the introduction of the hoplite tactics, which overcame the system 
of chariots and light arms ; and there is some ground for supposing that 
the Dorians were 'men of iron' who overcame the 'men of bronze.' 


the same origin must be attributed to the governments 
of Thessaly and Boeotia. 

§ 24. Changes of Government incident on the establish- 
ment of Aristocracy. 

From the description just given of the transition to 
aristocracy it may be inferred that the constitutional 
changes required were neither many nor important. The 
essence of the change was the assertion of the authority 
of the class of nobles, as against the single monarch or the 
magistrates. Hence the Council assumed a greater im- 
portance under the aristocracy, while the assembly of the 
commons seems to have had even less weight than it 
possessed under the monarchy. The fate of the king 
differed in different states. As has been pointed out, the 
title ySacriXeii? in Greek is a term elastic in its applica- 
tion^; and the title was often retained after monarchy 
was really abolished. The ^aaiXeii^ might become a 
temporary or a responsible magistrate, or several /3ao-t- 
\^69 might take the place of one''. 

In some states new magistrates with special titles were 
instituted to receive some part of the king's power. Thus 
at Athens the polemarch and the archon shared the func- 
tions of government with the king, and in the course of 
time the king became the least important of the three. 
At Megara there was a legend of a similar division of 
duties between king and general'. Gradually the duties 

• Holm, Griechische Geschichte, i p. 318. 

" The division of the kingly power is illustrated by the double king- 
ship at Sparta (which diminished the importance of the ofBce). But the 
origin of this institution is prehistoric. See also chapter iv § 33. 

3 Paus. i 39 6. 


of administration were distributed among a still greater 
number of magistrates, and Aristotle classifies the titular 
kings of later times either as life-generals or as ritual 

In point of tenure Athens shows the transition from 
the hereditary king for life to the elected and annual 
magistrate, and at Athens too we hear of the responsi- 
bility of the kings being asserted. Probably the council 
in many states gained the right to control the magis- 

§ 25. Transition from Aristocracy to Oligarchy. 

The transition to aristocracy from, monarchy, while it 
involved a formal change of constitution, was effected 
without doing violence to the general sentiment of the 
age ; but the institution of oligarchy, even if it required no 
change in the external form of government, was connected 
with the most momentous social movements and with an 
absolute revolution in the thoughts of men. 

In the aristocratic society classes were fixed with 
something of the rigidity of castes ; the rulers formed a 
close corporation, marrying only within their own order'^, 
maintaining a monopoly of the secrets of government, 
keeping within their own circle judicial, military and 
religious functions, and exercising an absolute rule over 
submissive subjects. Their authority was, in most states, 

•* Fol. iii 14 1285 b 14. 

1 There is not very much evidence: but such a provision is usually 
characteristic of a close aristocracy. Hdt. v 92 asserts it of the Bacchiads 
at Corinth, and we may infer it of Megara from Theognis (see n. 19). 
Of. the prohibition of connubium at Bome. 


consecrated by the prescription of centuries ; in others 
sanctified as effectively by the right of conquest". Ke- 
spect for their rule was instinctive : they were ' the good ' 
and ' the best ' : their subjects the ' base ' and the ' craven.' 
To refuse them obedience was a sin', for they were descen- 
dants of the gods, who had given them both their power 
and their wealth*, and with whom they alone could 

To overthrow this government and set oligarchy in its 
place was to substitute wealth for ' virtue V to ignore the 
power of the gods and drive them from the earth', to give 
to might the place of right, to abolish privilege and let 
social forces have unchecked play. 

Changes so momentous and so destructive to their 
pretensions could not be accepted by the nobles without a 
bitter struggle ; and the echoes of this conflict are pre- 
served for us in the verses of the lyrical poets, all of them 
aristocrats, many of them spendthrift and ruined, who 
curse the power of wealth, and the rise of base men, and 
mourn the lost privileges of ' the good.' Nowhere do we 

2 Bluntsohli, Theory of the State, p. 247 'Ancient peoples regarded 
war as a great international lawsuit, and victory as the judgment of God 
in favour of the victor.' 

' Of. Xen. Besp. Lac. 8 5 oi ii.6:>ov S,voii.ov dXXa Koi avbdLov rh tvSoxp^- 
(TTOis v6fiois /i7? irddeffBat. 

* No evidence is required for the helief that power comes from the 
gods. It is inherent in the constitution of early society. Land, regarded 
as the true form of wealth, is said to be given by the gods and is therefore 
distinguished from other kinds of property. Cf . Solon fr. 13 9 — 13 ; 
Theogn. 197—202. 

^ Cf. Plato Rep. viii 550 e and 551 A on the contrast of t\oDtos and 
d/jeri}, especially n/ia/iivov di; wXoiiTov iv vSKm /col tuv ifKovaltnv ari/wr^pa, 
dper'/i re Kal oi iya$oi. 

Theogn. 1135—50. 'The gods have left the earth.' 


get a more vivid representation of the revolution, or a 
better reflection of contemporary opinion, than in the 
pages of Solon and Theognis, the one a mediator between 
the past and the future, striving to unite the discord of 
factions and to restore peace and order to the state ; 
the other an irreconcilable enemy of the changes that 
were being effected, refusing to accept the inevitable, and 
still maintaining the cause of the old aristocracy. There 
is uncertainty about both the date of Theognis and the 
constitution of Megara : he lived in an age of revolutions, 
and his poems may refer to more than one form of con- 
stitution ; but his general attitude seems to be that of an 
aristocrat protesting against plutocracy, of a bitter op- 
ponent of the new-made rich who have risen to power 
and honour'. 

It is a circumstance peculiarly appropriate to the 
character of oligarchy that its origin can be traced to the 
invention of money more than to any one other fact; it 

' We may assume that the Dorian aristocracy of birth at Megara was 
overthrown by Theagenes, and not restored after his expulsion. Probably 
an oligarchy of wealth followed (referred to by Plut. Q. G. 18), succeeded 
soon after by a violent democracy, after which oligarchy was probably 
restored (Welcker refers Ar. Pol. viii 5 1304 b 35 and vi 15 1300 a 17 to 
this period, but they seem to suit the events of 424 e.c. better). We do 
not know exactly at what stage Theognis was writing: his tone seems 
more natural in an oligarchy of wealth, than in a democracy. At any 
rate aristocracy was not far back in the past, and the poet shows the 
aristocratic loathing of the commons, rich and poor. 

F. Cauer, Parteien und Politiker in Megara und Athen, discusses the 
overthrow of aristocracy at Megara and its causes with much ability : but 
I cannot agree with his theory that we can assign different poems of 
Theognis to different dates, and thereby trace a definite change in his 
position. Herr Cauer assumes a transition from personal and political 
friendship with the lower classes to the violent championship of the 
aristocracy. This speculation seems to me far-fetched and unnecessary. 


was the redistribution of wealth, due to trade and industry, 
and only rendered possible by the introduction of coinage, 
which raised new social classes to power in the state. 
But these material causes required the contribution of 
moral causes. What had hitherto been considered the 
absolute right of the aristocracy came to be regarded as 
an odious privilege : and the revolution of ideas involved 
in this could not be effected without deep changes of 
sentiment in matters of government and religion, in fixed 
customs and social divisions. 

These changes probably did not take place until the 
rule of the nobles had proved oppressive to the excluded^. 
A close society, based upon hereditary succession and 
maintained by intermarriage, tends naturally to. become 
narrower, and as it becomes narrower to become also more 
despotic. When land is the only source of wealth, the 
landowners are apt to make an oppressive use of their 
monopoly, to enforce the laws of debt to their own pur- 
pose, to try and reduce the other classes to a still worse 
subjection'. Such an abuse of power raised a bitter feel- 
ing against the aristocracy ; and we may see in this 
degeneracy of government the basis of the ethical distinc- 
tions drawn by Plato and Aristotle between aristocracy 
and oligarchy. Oligarchy is the perverted form of a good 

8 On this see W. W. Fowler, The City State, pp. 119 ff. 

9 The laws of debt both at Athens and Borne were wrested so as to 
introduce a practical state of serfdom. I think the Eupatrid landowners 
at Athens were endeavouring before Solon's legislation to reduce the 
Thetes to the condition of the Lacedaemonian Helots. Cf. the descrip- 
tion in Ar. Ath. Pol. 2 § 2 (iSoiXevov ol Tvivqris toU irXovtrlois) ; § 3 (r6 
SouXeiJeic). This explains the importance of his prohibition rb /i^ Savel^eiv 
iirl Tois a-dimaiv (9 § 1) which is described as the most democratic measure 
of all. 


government, and Aristotle explains that it came into being 
at a time when the rulers became ' worse,' and used their 
power to make money'". As long as land was the chief 
or only form of wealth, the other classes must have been 
in a state of dependence on the nobles, who owned most 
of the land". Some of the commons worked land be- 
longing to the nobles, others served for hire, and as they 
were paid in kind they could never accumulate wealth or 
attain independence. 

But the growth of trade and navigation, which suc- 
ceeded the spread of colonies, introduced new methods of 
producing wealth , deprived land of its exclusive import- 
ance, and exalted industry and commerce. One thing 
more was essential to dissolve the 'law of status '^^i the 
introduction of a proper medium of exchange. The tran- 
sition from barter to a money currency, which took place 
in Greece about the beginning of the seventh century, 
effected an economic revolution. Before this transition 
had taken place it must have been impossible to effect a 
proper division of employments or to give to industry its 
due reward^'. 

Trade in many Greek states was not essentially un- 

*" Pol. iii 15 1286 b 14 itrd Se x^^P^^s yevS^evoi ixpvf^<^Tt'^ovTO dirb twv 
KOLvwv, ivTevBiv irodev effKoyov yeviaOai, ras iXiyapxia^- Of. Plat. Rep. viii 
550 E. 

1' The possession of land is implied in Aristotle's definition of evyiveia 
(discussed in § 6) and in many cities was one of tlie conditions of political 
privilege. See ch. iv. § 30. 

'2 Bagehot, Physics and Politics p. 29. ' In early times the guiding 
rule was the law of status. Everybody was born to a place in the com- 
munity : in that place he had to stay : in that place he found certain 
duties which he had to fulfil, and which were all he needed to think of.' 

" Cf. At. Pol. i 9 1257 a 35. 


aristocratic. Many of the colonies governed by close aris- 
tocracies were most active in the pursuit of commerce. 
The chief epoch of colonisation, which was undertaken to 
a great extent to promote and protect commercial in- 
terests, is earlier than the period of oligarchic government; 
and there are many particular instances of aristocracies 
generally or of particular nobles engaging in trade". But 
trade and industry, unlike property in land, could not be 
limited to a class : other people besides the nobles might 
accumulate wealth. The introduction of money, a measure 
which has always proved to the advantage of industry, 
tended to emancipate the hired labourers from their thral- 
dom and rendered the exchange of property easy, so that, 
while it was possible for the commons to rise to wealth, it 
was equally possible for the nobles to lose their substance 
by rash speculation or to waste it in luxurious living. 
Lastly, the importation of corn from abroad had its in- 
evitable effects on agriculture". 

The general diffusion of wealth, involving the im- 
poverishment of some nobles and the enrichment of some 
of the commons", produced a state of political inequality 
which demanded redress. The same causes were not 
equally effective in all states. In some trade never 
attained to importance ; class distinctions were rigidly 
kept up and the old aristocracies survived". But in 

" The commercial activity of the aristocracies is obvious in the 
colonies. Cauer id. p. 21 argues that the nobles of Megara were 
especially interested in foreign trade. Of individual examples we may 
cite Solon (Plut. Sol. 2) and Sappho's brother (Strabo xvii 808). 

1' See Cauer id. pp. 18 — 9 and Busolt StaatsaltertUmer^ pp. 33 — 4. 

'* This is the burden of the plaint of Theognis, cf. 315, -n-oAXoi rot 
irKovTovfft. KaKoif ayadol d^ Tr^vovrai. 

" The commercial oligarchy was never established in Sparta or 


most states the power of wealth could not be resisted": 
the economic revolution led first to social, then to politi- 
cal changes. Intermarriage between the classes became 
general", the commons were admitted to serve in the 
army'^, and in some states the balance of power had 
already shifted from birth to wealth before the people 
were conscious of change, and the only course possible 
was to recognise the accomplished fact and widen the 
basis of government^'. 

Such were the social and economic changes which 
rendered possible the transition from aristocracy to oli- 
garchy. But the transition was seldom effected immedi- 
ately. The nobles did not surrender their privileges 
without resistance, and the contest between birth and 
wealth generally led to a state of faction, the issue of 
which was almost invariably in the seventh and sixth 
centuries a tyranny ^^ The commons, strong in numbers 

1* Of. Theognis passim, especially 700 irX-fiBei. S' avdpiinruiv Apirri /Ua 
yiveTM ijde \ irXovTeiv : and the sentiment XP^P-"-'^' "■"VPi which occurs in 
Alcaeus fr. 49 (Bergk) ; Pindar Isth. 2 11. The whole of lyrical poetry 
bears witness to it. 

^' Theognis 183 ff. We may infer the same result for other states. 

^° The introduction of hoplite tactics probably rendered it necessary 
to open the army to such of the commons as could furnish the equipment. 
In a time of perpetual war the state could not afford to maintain aristo- 
cratic distinctions. 

^1 The constitution of Draco at Athens, as discussed in Ar. Ath. Pol. 
4 2 {dircSidoTO i] iroKirela rois iiirXa TrapexofLii'oi.s), if we place any reliance 
on the account, may have been only the legal recognition of changes 
already accomplished. (This would explain the pluperfect iireSiSoro.) 

2^ I do not know that there is any instance recorded besides that of 
Athens in which oligarchy succeeded aristocracy without the interme- 
diate stage of tyranny. But at Athens the constitution of Solon never 
got to work, and it needed the tyranny of Pisistratus to break the power 
of the nobles and clear the ground for a government on a fresh basis. 


and wealth but without leaders or organisation, could only 
overthrow the aristocracy by reviving monarchy. And 
the tyrants almost without exception used their position 
to break the power of the nobility and to deprive them of 
their privilege and prestige^l Tyranny had but a short 
reign in Greece, but it was rarely, if ever, possible to 
establish the old aristocratic constitution after it was once 
overthrown^: in most states of the mainland oligarchy 
was introduced^^, in some democracy succeeded directly 
to tyranny^. 

I have postponed until now the consideration of one 
factor which must have been of momentous consequence 
in the struggle between the old government and the new. 
The struggle between the tribe and the city, which has 
been said to characterise early periods of history, had here 
to be fought out to the death : for both the political 
privileges and the personal influence of the nobles de- 
pended on the tribal organisation of the state, and it 
proved vain to abolish the privileges of birth, without 
touching the sway of the great families. In almost all 
Greek states the ascending series of house, clan and tribe 

^ E. Curtius in Hermes x p. 232 thinks Corinth was an exception. 
'The Corinthian tyranny was distinguished from other tyrannies in 
having no democracy behind it : it maintained many of the conservative 
principles of the former oligarchy (of birth).' 

^ Hdt. iii 50 mentions Prooles, a tyrant of Epidaurus; Epidaurus 
afterwards was governed by an aristocracy. Ar. Pol. viii 12 1316 a 34 
mentions the tyranny of Charilaus at Sparta passing into aristocracy : 
but this was probably not a tyranny of the ordinary type. 

25 Oligarchy succeeded tyranny at Megara, Sicyon and Corinth. 

^' Democracy was instituted after the tyranny at Athens and in many 
of the towns of Ionia, where Greek tyrants had ruled in the interests of 


may be traced^. Originally, no doubt, these divisions 
were based on common descent'* and, at a time whea only 
the nobles were admitted to privilege, they were naturally 
adopted as political divisions and came to be recognised 
as essential parts of the constitution. But these divisions 
had a religious as well as a political function. Each tribe, 
each clan and each house had its own religious cult, and 
even if members of the other orders were admitted to the 
sacred rites, the nobles were alone qualified to mediate 
with the gods, just as they alone could represent the State 
in divine affairs. Lastly the so-called houses were as- 
sociated with certain districts of the country^', in which 
the nobles must have exercised sway over such members 
of the other orders as were settled there'", and it was as 
necessary to break down their local ascendency as it was 
to abolish their political privilege. 

The natural method of admitting the commons to the 
state was to open the <yevr) to them, and still to retain the 

^ The divisions were usually called -yivo^ or irdrpa, tpparpla or <ri;7- 
yheM and <j>vMi. See Gilbert, Handbuch ii pp. 302 ff. and Dicaearchus 
quoted there. 

"^ The names of the different Athenian yh>ri were all patronymic. 

2' Many villages in Attica bore the names of noble 7^;'i;. The local 
factions of the sixth century each had noble leaders. 

3" The nobles would not lightly surrender their absolute dominion 
within their own y4i>oi. They had the aristocratic feeling against 
centralisation and were constantly asserting the rights of the y^cos 
against those of the state. Of. De Coulanges, op. eit. p. 312 'The 
overthrow of royalty had resulted in the revival of the rule of the 
7^cos: the families had resumed their life of isolation: each had begun 
again to form a petty state with a Eupatrid as chief and a crowd of 
clients and serfs as subjects.' He assumes that the Thetes had been 
reduced to serfdom long before Solon. I do not think there is any 
evidence for this. 


•yevri and the larger organisations in which they were 
grouped as parts of the constitution. This step can be 
traced at Athens, where the fiction of common worship 
took the place of kinship as a qualification for the 
membership of a 761/0?, at least as early as the constitu- 
tion of Solon, and the fevq were by this means thrown 
open to the two lower classes besides the Eupatrids. 
But this measure left both the power of the nobles within 
the r^evT] and their local influence undiminished. Citizen- 
ship was no longer limited to a class, but it was based on 
the membership of a religious corporation, in which Eupa- 
trid influence was dominant and of which a Eupatrid was 
the hereditary head. The people were still in vassalage; 
the extension of the franchise failed to emancipate them 
from the sway of their lords, and the instance only shows 
us how useless are democratic reforms in a society, which 
remains thoroughly aristocratic in spirit and organisation. 
The history of the sixth century is but the record of the 
factions of noble families, and it was not till Cleisthenes 
took decisive measures to abolish, root and branch, the 
tribal organisation as part of the constitution, to sub- 
stitute purely artificial divisions for the old system of 
house, clan and tribe, and to prevent by the most 
elaborate institutions any possibility of local factions, that 
the democratic constitution of Solon could be realised ^^ 

'' On the position of tlie yivri in the Athenian state see Appendix B, 
where also the character and importance of the reforms of Cleisthenes 
are discussed. The importance of such measures was clearly realised by 
Aristotle. Of. Pol. vii 4 1319 b 19 fri Se koX rk Toiaura /carair/ccuiiff^aTa 
Xpijiri/ia irpbs t^v StiiioKparlav rriv TOMirriv, ofs WKei,(r6h>t)S re 'A8'^vi]<rii> ixP^- 
aaro ^ov\6/iei'OS aii^crai tt]v StjfiOKpaTiav, Kal irepl Kvp^vrjv ol rbv 87jfwv 
Ka6iffTdvT€s. (jivKai re yiip ^repai TroLTjriai irXeiovs Kal tpparpiai, Kal ret rutv 
Idiiop iepuv (TvvaKTiov els 6\lya Kal Koii^d, Kal irdvTa ffotpurr^ov, Hirtas &v Sri 

w. 6 


The instance of Athens shows us how important it 
was to dissolve the old tribal associations and how hard it 
was to effect their dissolution. In most cases the tyranny 
performed this useful service : for the tyranny was called 
into being in the interests of the commons to break the 
power of the nobles, and this could only be done by 
depriving the old tribes of their dominant position. We 
cannot tell by what particular means this was accom- 
plished : in many cases the nobles were banished, in 
others, as at Sicyon, they were degraded'^ We have 
evidence of disputes between the privileged and the 
excluded in other states^, instances of the creation of 
artificial divisions in place of old tribal systems**; but 
even in default of positive evidence, we know that the 
change must have been accomplished before oligarchy 
was possible : and it is important to remember that the 
overthrow of these aristocratic privileges was as necessary 
a condition of oligarchy as of democracy. 

The measures I have been discussing involved religious 
changes. It was by a religious fiction that the commons 
were admitted to the 761/7; at Athens ; and the new poli- 

/tdXicrra dj'a/itx^ti)(7t Tr&vTes dXX^Xois, al d^ ffVv^deLai Sta^evxduo't.i' at Tpdrepai. 
Such measures were equally necessary before an oligarchy could succeed 
an aristocracy. 

32 Hdt. V 68. 

33 Such disputes were especially frequent in the colonies between the 
later immigrants and the original settlers. See Ch. iv § 31. 

3* Busolt, Die Lakedaimonier p. 184, argues that ten local tribes took 
the place of nine birth tribes at Elis. The inference is drawn from Paus. 
V 9 6. A similar change in the tribal organisation at Gyrene is related 
by Hdt. iv 161, and the passage of Aristotle quoted in n. 31 probably 
refers to this (though Gilbert, Handbueh ii p. 230, assigns it to a later 
development of democracy mentioned by Heraclides, F. H. G. ii 212). 


tical organisations had their religious side ; new cults had 
to be instituted for the local tribes and demes. It was 
essential that the religious privilege of the nobles should 
be abolished not only in the tribe and its subdivisions but 
also in the state generally. Hence the overthrow of aris- 
tocratic government was marked by the introduction of 
new gods and new worships : and the efforts made by the 
tyrants to gain the support of great religious organisations 
show how keenly they realised the strength of religious 
elements in political affairs. 

§ 26. Development of constitutions in the fifth century. 

The transition to oligarchy was usually accomplished 
after an interval of tyranny. Tyrannies were prevalent 
in Greece in the seventh and sixth centuries, and the 
latter century witnessed the birth of democracy, the great 
rival of oligarchy. It would involve a deviation from the 
subject of this essay to discuss the causes which produced 
democracy : democracy only concerns us as the alternative 
to oligarchy. I have already referred to the cleavage of 
Greek states in accordance with their form of government, 
and to the influence of Athens and Sparta as the respective 
champions of democracy and oligarchy, of 'liberty and 
equality ' on the one hand, of ' good order and good sense ' 
on the other\ 

Their influence may be illustrated from the events of 
the fifth century. Apart from the Delian and the Pelo- 
ponnesian confederacies, in which, as I have shown above, 
each power exerted a steady pressure in favour of its 

' i\ev8fpta and Urovoftla opposed to eivo/da and aatppojivri. 



own principles, we may note the establishment of demo- 
cracy in Argos and Megara, which should probably be 
regarded as a consequence of their alliance with Athens', 
and it is usually assumed that democracies were established 
in Boeotia after the battle of Oenophyta'. During the 
Peloponnesian war Athens strove to forward the cause of 
democracy, by alliance with democratic states* or by 
forcible methods^ while the Spartans used their power 
to strengthen the hands of the oligarchs in many cities'. 
The Sicilian disaster was followed by the revolt of many 
Athenian allies, most of them establishing oligarchies im- 
mediately on revolt' ; and after the crushing defeat of 
Aegospotami Lysander imposed absolute and violent 
oligarchies on almost every state in Greece'. In some 

^ The break-up of the general union of Greece, and the formation of 
separate alliances, which dates from 461, accentuated the constitutional 
differences. The existence of democracy at Megara in 427 is attested by 
Thuc. iv 66, and Argos, which had been aristocratic in 480 (Hdt. vii 149), 
was democratic in 421 (Thuc. v 31). Gilbert, Handbuch ii p. 70 and 
p. 77, is probably right in suggesting that the change of constitution was 
connected with their alliance with Athens. 

2 The evidence is hardly strong enough for the conclusion. See 
Busolt, Geschichte ii^ p. 493 n. 5, p. 494 n. 1. 

* The coalition of Athens, Argos, Elis and Mantinea in 419 B.C. was 
a combination of democracies. 

5 The plan of Demosthenes against Boeotia was concerted with 
democratic partisans: and it was doubtless intended to establish 

8 Examples of Spartan influence are, the restoration of oligarchy at 
Megara (Thuc. iv 74) : the establishment of the shortlived oligarchy at 
Argos (Thuc. v 81) : the strengthening of the oUgarchy at Sicyon (Thuc. 
V 81) : the interference with the constitution in Achaea (v 82). 

' Thuc. viii 64. 

8 Plut. Lys. 14 KaT^Xve ri,! iroXirelas Kal KaBlari) SeKadapxlas. Cf. Xen. 
Hell, iii 5 12—13; Diod. xiv 10. 


cities his work was undone by the Spartan government', 
but in many oligarchies lingered on until Spartan power 
was shattered by the defeats of Cnidus and Leuctra. 

§ 27. Development of constitutions in the fourth century. 

■ The political state of Greece in the fourth century 
shows a marked change from its condition in the fifth cen- 
tury. Neither Sparta nor Athens had the ascendency which 
she had hitherto enjoyed ; other states rose to power and 
in general the lesser cities were left free to control their 
constitutions as they liked. One general tendency was 
the intensification of democracies and oligarchies : extreme 
forms of both these types were developed towards the end 
of the century ', and the philosophers, familiar with narrow 
oligarchies and tyrannical democracies, impressed with the 
rarity of moderate and legal governments^ came to regard 
all existing constitutions as perversions' and turned with 
relief to the study of the ideal. 

9 Xen. Hell, iii 4 2. 

1 Of. Newman, Introduction pp. 417 — 8. 'The Greek states were 
ruled either by harsh soldiers, pugnacious and keen for distinction like 
the Spartans, or by rapacious oligarchs, demagogues or tyrants.... We 
know from Aristotle that moderate forms of oligarchy and democracy 
did exist, but he dwells on the intolerance of compromise and the deter- 
mination not to share power with others.' 

^ See Ar. Pol. vi 11 1296 a 1. He discusses the extreme forms S^/tos 
^(Txaros, 6\iyapxto. &Kparos and rvpavvlSf he talks of the rarity of mode- 
rate forms, and sums up the matter (1. 40) ^5ij Si koI tois iv rah TrSKeffiv 
^Oos Kad^ffTTjKe firid^ /SoiiXetr^at rb ttrov, dXX* tj apx^tv ^Tjreiv TJ Kparov/iivovs 

3 To Plato all ordinary constitutions are perversions : even to Aristotle 
ipiaTOKparla (which should mean the normal oligarchy) scarcely exists 
save as an ideal, while SiqiuiKpaTla had snch evil associations that TroXircfe 
had to be employed to denote the normal democracy. 


While one tendency of the age was to intensify the 
character of existing governments, the current set in favour 
of democracy rather than of oligarchy. The effective causes 
were various. The decline of Sparta, the hreak-up of her 
alliance, and the loss of her empire, set free a number 
of states, in which oligarchy had only been maintained 
by force. The most powerful and the most unscrupulous 
champion of this form of government was deprived of 

Alterations in the relative strength of classes must 
have been caused by the Peloponnesian war, which in- 
volved the decrease in the number of the better classes 
and the loss of much of their property*. Connected with 
this was the introduction of mercenary forces, which 
diminished the importance of the citizen soldier. 

Economic causes tended to the same result. Trade 
became of increased importance, and trade is, in general, 
ultimately favourable to democracy. Hence came the 
growth of large trading cities, in which the people learnt 
to know their power and to divide the public funds by a 
system of state-socialism. It may have been this tendency 
which led Aristotle to the conclusion that ' in a large town 
it is difficult for any constitution save democracy to 

The effect of the critical events of the fourth century 
may be briefly dismissed. The battle of Cnidus set free 
the islands and the Greek cities of Asia* and was un- 

* Ar. Pol. viii 3 1303 a 8 (of Athens). 

5 Pol. iii 15 1286 b 20. Thueydides (vi 39 2) says practically the same 
thing, d i/jUci' ol Svviix,€voi (= oligarchs) rpoBv/ioOyTat iSiyara h neydXri 

6 Xen. Hell, iv 8 1. 


doubtedly followed by the overthrow of many of the 
Lysandriau oligarchies'. The work was to a large extent 
undone by the peace of Antalcidas, which delivered over 
the Greeks of Asia to Persia,. Persian dominion was 
maintained in them by means of oligarchies or tyrannies, 
which were overthrown by Alexander s. 

The democratic revolution at Thebes in 379 was in 
every way important. The Boeotian towns adopted the 
constitution of their capital, and when once Thebes had 
gained supremacy in Greece, she used her power to es- 
tablish democracies'. The battle of Leuctra broke for 
ever the ascendency of Sparta : most of the Peloponnesian 
states renounced their allegiance and a series of revolu- 
tions led to the general triumph of democracy". In 356 
the Social war set free the Athenian allies to mould their 
constitutions to their own liking, and many seem to have 
established oligarchies without delay". These events and 

' There is little positive evidence: but many states attached them- 
selves to the Athenian alliance immediately after Cnidus : and we may 
assume that the democracies, which can be traced in many of them soon 
after, now took the place of the decarchies. The narrative of Diodorus 
xiv 84 implies this. 

8 Pint. Alex. 34 mentions the overthrow of tyrannies: Arrian i 18 
1 — 2 of oligarchies. 

' Although Thebes did not interfere with the autonomy of other 
states, the new foundations of Messene and Megalopolis seem to have 
been democratic. 

1° At Argos there was a massacre of oligarchs (Diod. xv 57) : at 
Sicyon a tyranny was established in the interests of democracy (Xen. 
Hell, viii 1 46) ; the democracy was probably restored at Mantinea {ib. 
vi 5 3) and at Tegea (vi 5 6). 

" In Chios, Mitylene, Rhodes and many other states oligarchies were 
established probably at this time. See Dem. xv 19 and cf. Ar. Pol. viii 
3 1302 b 22 and 5 1304 b 25—30 on Rhodes and Cos. 


the termination of the brief Theban supremacy removed 
from Greek politics the influence of dominant powers and 
for a brief season there was a free competition of constitu- 
tions. But in the interval the power of Macedon had 
risen and Chaeronea put Greece beneath the heel of 
Philip. Greece was no longer independent, but her 
master was indifferent to the war of constitutions, by 
which she had for so long been distraught. To him 
oligarchy, democracy or tyranny were equal, so long as 
the government offered a sense of security and was ready 
to subserve his dominion^l The city state had reached 
the end of its development: the future was with mon- 
archies and federations ; and it is with mingled humour 
and pity that we read the poems of Isyllus, who, blind to 
all the real forces of the age, vaunts the power of the god 
in beating back Philip and looks for the salvation of Hellas 
in the return to a pious, mediaeval state of the Dorian 
type ; and seeks a counterpoise to Macedon in those nobles 
of the Dorian tribes, who are to grow their hair long and 
establish a new festival in honour of the patron saint of 
Epidaurus, the god of health and fortune — Asclepius". 

^2 Macedon interfered, if she had reason to fear the conduct of an 
existing government. Thus at Thebes Philip established an oligarchy 
of exiles (Justin ix 4): and in 322 Antipater established a moderate 
timocraoy at Athens. 

'3 See Wilamowitz-MoUendorff, Isyllos von Epidauros, where the 
poems are quoted. 


The formation of the united Athenian state^. 

The history of Athens down to the seventh century is 
based almost entirely on legends, supported by inferences 
drawn from later institutions or survivals. The time has 
gone by when the stories of Erechtheus, Oecrops, Ion and 
Theseus would be accepted as genuine accounts of the 
reign of real kings. But it may be possible to derive some 
historical results from legendary evidence, and it would 
be as unwise altogether to reject as implicitly to accept 
the help of myths and tradition". 

Three stages in the unification of Attica are associated 
with the names of Cecrops, Ion and Theseus. The com- 
parative method in its application to the origin of civilised 
communities, the tendencies at work in later Athenian 

' In this Appendix I have endeavoured to present a credible account 
of the development of the Athenian commonwealth. I have not dis- 
cussed all the theories that have been proposed, nor have I CLuoted all 
the evidence that makes for or against the theories I adopt. My object 
is to call attention to certain striking points, many of which escape 
notice in the ordinary textbooks. To deal exhaustively with the evidence 
and speculation on the subject would require a separate treatise of no 
inconsiderable length. 

* The instance of Eoman history shows what good results may be 
extracted from a rational treatment of the legends. 


history^ and the survival of religious festivals^ show that 
the Athenian state was gradually developed by the combi- 
nation of small tribal communities into larger groups ; and 
it is entirely immaterial whether kings with the names of 
Cecrops, Ion and Theseus ever lived, if we can trace in 
the legends, however vaguely and indistinctly, some steps 
in the process. 

In the first political system of Attica there was a 
number of village communities, the settlements of noble 
families with their followers and dependents^ The tend- 
ency towards union made itself felt, and partly by force, 
partly by voluntary cohesion, the villages gradually formed 
themselves into larger political communities, and legend 
attributed to Cecrops the combination of the KWfiai into 
twelve TToXei?'. We may assume that at an early date the 
villages, feeling the need of common defence and common 
government, united in TroXet?, hill forts to which they 
could resort in time of danger', and which had each their 
king's house, council chamber and rulersl Probably the 
TToXet? were joined in a loose federal system, such as 
existed in Boeotia and Latium, and in time of danger they 

' For the tendencies to separation in later Athenian history see 
Appendix B. 

* So Thuoydides ii 15 quotes the festival of the fui/okia as evidence 
. for the union of Attica and bases a further argument on the buildings of 
the Acropolis. Cf. Harpocration on the Panathenaea. 

5 See above § 25 nn. 27—30. 

^ Strabo ix 397 quotes Philochorus. There were many reasons why 
the number twelve should be adopted and no stress need be laid upon it. 

' The fortification was usually the first step in the foundation of a 

' Thuc. ii 15 ^Tri yap KiKpowos Kal twv irpiiriav /SoiriWuv i] 'Attikt) is 
Qriaia. del Kark t&Khs yifeiro irpvTavu& re ixoi(Tas Kal S.pxovTai. The 
irpxiTaveia I take to be the residence of the chiefs. 

The next stage in the progress towards unity was 
associated with the name of Ion, the eponymous hero of 
the lonians, represented as the leader of a body of immi- 
grants who settled in Attica", and gave their name to the 
people of the land". In this way the legend suggests the 
spread of a feeling of unity, and Aristotle regards Ion as 
the first founder of the Attic commonwealth '". In other 
ways Ion's coming was important : he was said to have 
been made polemarch of Athens" by a division of the 
kingly power, which reminds us of the union of Ramnes 
and Titles and the consequent division of authority 
between Romulus and Tatius ; he was said also to have 
founded the four Ionian tribes, each with a <^vKo^acriXev<s 
as its head^^. As to the origin, the composition or the 
purpose of these tribes there is still endless controversy, 
but if we conclude that they corresponded to local 

' Thuc. I.e. continues xaX oirdre ixi] ti Selauav, oi ^w^eirav Pov\ev(r6/iepot 
<l)s rhv ^aaCKia, d\V airol iKaffToi iirohreiovTo koX i^ovXeiovTo' xal nves Kal 
iiroK^fiTjffdv Trore a^TUJy. 

" Ar. Ath. Pol. 41 2 irpiliTiij fiiv yi,p ^y^vero KariffTaais tuv ^| dpx^s 
"Iwpos Kcd Twv juer' aiiTov avvoLKriffdvTUp' T&re yhp irpunov els rhs T^Trapas 
avveven-fidiiaav <pv\as Kal Toifs ^uXo/SoffiXeis Karianiaav. Aristotle gave an 
account of Ion in the chapters lost from the beginning of the treatise: 
cf./c. 3813. 

" Heracl. Epit. 1 avvoiKiiaavToi Si "lucos airois, rire irpurov 'Iwi»es 
iK\ieriaav ; cf. fr. 381'. 

^° See the passage quoted in n, 10. The use of <rvvevefi,'^8ri<rav points 
to the establishment of a united state. 

13 See Ar. Ath. Pol. 3 2 and the other passages quoted by Dr Sandys 
in his note. 

" See Aristotle quoted in n. 10. 


divisions, we may trace in the legends the second great 
step in the unification of Attica^'. The TroXet?, with the 
Kwixai attached to them, were now grouped in four tribes, 
each tribe having some unity of religion and government 
and ruled by a <f>vXo^a<rtXev<;. It is not clear what place 
Athens held at the time, whether her primacy was 
recognised and whether the Athenian king exercised a 
suzerainty over all Attica or ranked only as one of the 
(f)v\ofiacn\ei<;. But here we receive help from another 
legend. Strabo says that all writers of Atthides were 
agreed that the four sons of Pandion II. ruled over the 
four divisions into which Attica was divided, and he quotes 
a fragment of Sophocles to prove that Aegeus (who re- 
ceived Cecropia) was given the best share'". It seems 
reasonable to connect these four divisions with the four 
tribes, and the sons of Pandion with the <f>v\o^acriXet<;. 
On this assumption Athens (then called Cecropia) was 
only the capital of one of the (^vKaC, but its leading position 
is shown by the title irpea^eia given to it by Sophocles 
and by its being the lot of Aegeus, presumably the eldest 
son of Pandion ; while the assumption that Pandion was 

'5 I omit the evidence for this conclusion. It is natural to assume 
that the ^i/Xo/Soo-eXeis originally possessed real kingly power, and it is 
difficult to conceive that any system of common government could at so 
early a date be applied to tribes that were not local. Gilbert, Handbuch i' 
p. 116 n. 1, quotes Ar. Ath. Fol. 21 3 to show that the rptTries (which 
were subdivisions of the <pu\al) corresponded to local divisions ; it would 
follow that the ipvXal also were local. The identification of the tribes 
with the four local divisions mentioned by Strabo (see n. 16) supplies a 
confirmation of this theory. 

1" Strabo ix 392 (Megara and Euboea are included). Cf. also Heracl. 
Epit. 1 TLavbLuv 5k /3a(rt\eii<ras iiera ''Epex&^fi dUveifie ttjv &PXV^ ^oTs viots 
KoX SierAow ofiroi o-TatridfocTes. If any stress be laid on this we must 
assume that the four divisions tended to disunion. 

til .a.iitiu£]j . uiicii uiiiuc oui viveu ttimr .a.tueus utiu ueuuuie 

the seat of government of a united Attica, and though 
they may at first have retained some power in the state^', 
in course of time they lost all but certain ritual func- 
tions ^^ 

The existence of four separate kingdoms was likely to 
lead to rivalry and discord, and the next step was ascribed 
to Theseus, the son of Aegeus, who was said to have 
effected the a-woiKia-fiof of Attica, to have put down the 
separate governments of all other 7ro\et5 and made Athens 
the capital and seat of government of a united country''. 
There is less controversy about his work, and the only 
point that I wish to discuss is the division of the popula- 
tion into Eupatridae, Geomori and Demiurgi, which was 
said by Plutarch to be the work of Theseus"". But the 
division was obviously not an artificial institution: the 
three classes are such as are naturally found in all early 
societies. The most satisfactory explanation is that 
classes corresponding in their functions and privileges to 
these existed in the separate communities, that at the 
epoch associated with the name of Theseus these classes 

17 From their association with the pairiXeis in later times, Gilbert, 
Handhuch i" p. 120 n. 1, concludes that they formed a council of state 
assisting the king and representing the tribes. 

18 See Dr Sandys' n. to Ar. Ath. Pol. 3 2. The 0uXo/3ao-iX«s are 
generally supposed to be the ^atriXeU mentioned in Plut. Sol. 19 ; Andoc. 

19 Thuc. ii 15. 

2» Plut. Thes. 25. 


were made part of the political organisation of the united 
state, and separate titles instituted to describe them^^ 
From this time we trace the rise of Athens as a city state 
and the rule of the men of the city over the country 

21 This theory offers a satisfactory explanation of the names given to 
the different classes. I suppose that similar class divisions existed in 
the separate communities, but without common names. The Eupatridae 
— which is an obviously artificial title — were the chieftains of the separate 
communities (ISekker AtkccI. Ei57raT/)£5ai.../ieT^X<"''''^s jSoffiXi/coOy^i/ous), who 
doubtless had hitherto borne the patronymic names of their y4v'ij. The 
variety of titles under which the other classes were cited points to the 
existence of such orders with varying titles in the different com- 
munities. Thus the Geomori are also cited as Veoipyol, "AypoiKoi, 
' Ay poiurai.,' AiroiKoi (?): while the Demiurgi are also called iTrtyeii/j.opot. 

^ See Meyer, Geschiehte des Alterthums ii p. 336. 


The Athenian yivr) and their importance in the early 

In the preceding appendix I have traced in outline the 
gradual union of the people of Attica under one system of 
government. In the constitution thus formed privilege 
was restricted to the nobles'', who possessed in other 
respects a dominant position, as society was organised on 
an aristocratic basis, the inhabitants of the country districts 
being dependent on the noble houses, whose members 
formed the ruling class in Athens. 

The state was organised in yevrj, <f>paTpiai and <f>vKaL 
The origin of the <^v\ai I have already discussed ; if the 
assumption that they formed local divisions of Attica be 
correct, we may assume that they included all classes of 
the people, but it is generally agreed that the ^parpiai 

1 The followiBg appendix, like the last, is intended to call attention 
to certain important questions without discussing the theories of others 
or quoting the evidence in full. The subject is exceedingly intricate and 
aU conclusions must be more or less tentative. I have prolonged the 
Appendix in order to suggest an emendation in Ar. Ath. Pol. 22 4 which 
seems to me to involve some points of importance. 

^ For the early aristocratic Constitution of Athens cf . especially Ar. 
Ath. Pol. 2 and 3. 


and the yei/??, subdivisions based on birth, were originally 
closed to all but Eupatrids. Thus they formed the outworks 
of the aristocracy, if, as we may fairly conclude, member- 
ship of a 76i'09 was a necessary condition of citizenship. 
Solon's legislation broke down the exclusive privilege of 
birth and substituted other qualifications for citizenship, 
but it did not abolish the tribal organisation of the 
state or deprive it of its political importance. 

We have now to see how the admission of non- 
Eupatrids to citizenship was reconciled with the mainten- 
ance of the old birth organisations. We have no direct 
evidence to guide us and the greatest uncertainty still 
prevails ^ 

There are several passages in the grammarians, all in 
substantial accord and probably ultimately derived from 
Aristotle, which describe the tribal organisation of Attica*. 
Two of these, both citing Aristotle ^ say that the whole 

3 Of recent textbooks Gilbert, Handluch i? pp. 117 — 9, says ' Originally 

none but Eupatrids were counted as members of Phratries and yivr) 

after the time of Draco at any rate, if not before, the burgess body, and 
therefore the phratries also, contained non-Eupatrid members'; Busolt, 
Staatsaltertumer^ p. 126 n. 1, says 'In Solon's time at least the lower 
orders were admitted to the tribes' but he implies that they were not 
members of the yif-n ; Thumser (Hermann, Lehrhuch" p. 312) seems to 
think that the 7^i'9) did include non-Bupatrids, though he is uncertain 
whether there were special 7^;'5; for them or whether they were admitted 
to the old y^Ti; Meyer, Geschichte des Alterthims n p. 311, thinks that at 
a comparatively early period the whole population was divided into yiin\. 

^ The chief passages are Lexicon Dem. Patm. p. 152 Sakkelion 
(quoted by Dr Sandys in his edition of Aristotle's Gonstitutimi of Athens 
p. 252) : Scholiast to Plato Axiochus 371 J> ; PoUux viii 111 ; Harpocratiou 
s.v. yevv^raL. 

5 Lexicon Dem. Patm. and Scholiast to Plato I.e. They are un- 
doubtedly based on a lost passage in Aristotle's Ath. Pol. 

THE ATHENIAN rfivr). 97 

population of Athens was divided into three classes ; these 
were divided into four tribes, each tribe into three ^parplai, 
each (ftparpia into 30 yivrj, each yevo<i containing 30 men. 
Harpocration says that all the citizens were divided into 
<j)v\ai, ij>paTpiat, and yivrj. Moreover the authorities show 
that Aristotle assumed a multitude of over 10,000 yevvqrai, 
and though the numbers are obviously fanciful and arti- 
ficial, it seems clear that Aristotle could not have imagined 
that the Eupatridae alone included anything like that 
number. The only indication as to the date at which this 
elaborate system was drawn up is a statement that ' of old 
before Cleisthenes introduced his tribal organisation ' the 
population was so divided^ The system described in the 
passages cited, which assume, I think, the admission of 
non-Eupatrids, need not be put earlier than the reforms 
of Draco and Solon (which lasted until Cleisthenes), 
although the division of the Eupatrids into house, clan 
and tribe was probably a natural institution dating from 
the earliest times. This is the chief direct evidence and 
it might be supported by many inferences : but taking it 
alone the statements are explicit, and it does not seem 
reasonable to attach to them any other meaning than that 
the whole of the citizen population, whether Eupatrid or 
not, was admitted to yevo<i, (jiparpLa and i^vKrj. 

We have next to discuss the means by which the yevTj 
were opened to the Geomori and Demiurgi. The object 
might have been accomplished by the institution of new 
yevT], in which they should be enrolled. Of such a 
measure there is no evidence, nor is there anything to 
prove the existence of separate non-Eupatrid yevrj in 

' Lexicon Dem. Patm. I.e. 
W. 7 


later times. Considering the imperfect character of the 
materials for the history of the period, it would not be 
safe to lay much stress on the silence of the historians, 
but they are far less likely to have passed over alto- 
gether the creation of new ^evq, than to have omitted to 
mention the admission of new citizens to the different 
divisions of the citizen body; for this step they might 
regard as implied in the statement of their admission to 
citizenship. Moreover the number of tribes and phratries 
was not altered, as we might expect had there been a 
large increase in the number of the r^ivr). Rejecting this 
hypothesis we must conclude that the <yev'q already in 
existence were opened to all citizens. It is true that 
these <yevr} were supposed to be based on kinship, but 
in early societies there is no legal fiction more frequently 
and extensively employed, than ' that which permits family 
relations to be artificially created'.' The method would 
be characteristic of primitive legislation. Moreover there 
would have been a powerful motive for the inclusion of 
the new citizens in the old 76^??. Our whole conception 
of early Athenian history requires us to assume the 
division of Attica among a number of Eupatrid families, 
each having attached to them in a patriarchal relation a 
large number of dependents, belonging to the other orders 
in the state. The power of the Eupatrids depended on 
the allegiance of these vassals, and we may well imagine 
that when it was felt necessary to extend the franchise, 
the powerful nobles were more easily reconciled to it, if 
citizen privileges and perhaps the exercise of citizen 
powers were made to depend on the membership of or- 

' Maine, Ancient Law p. 130. 

THE ATHENIAN 761/77. 99 

ganisations in which they themselves were all-powerful. 
This theory of the yivT] harmonises in every respect with 
what we know of Athenian history in the sixth century. 
The period was characterised by the struggles of great 
families and local factions. It was not a war of nobles 
against commons, but a war of factions, each of which had 
noble leaders and included all classes of the population. 

The next question is whether there is any evidence in 
the constitution of the yivrj of the admission of non- 
Eupatrid members. No subject is more difficult or has 
given rise to more controversy than this : the authorities, 
who after all tell us very little, are in conflict with one 
another and no safe conclusions can be drawn from them*. 
But the grammarians seem to have thought that the 
yevvrjrai (in the general sense of members of the <yivo(;) 
included two classes, ofioyaXa/CTe^ and opyemve'i. Many 
theories have been suggested to explain the distinction*, 
and on the whole the most satisfactory is that which 
assumes that the S/jioyaXaKTe^ (yevvrJTai in a special 
sense) were the original Eupatrid members of the 76J/09, 
who could trace their common descent, while the opye- 
S)ve<; (signifying those who shared in the religious rites 

* Pollux iii 52; viii 111; Suidas s.v. d/ioydKaKTes and 6pyeui>es: 
■ Harpocration s.v. yevK^Tai: Bekker Anecdota p. 227 9 — 15. The dis- 
tinction is drawn most explicitly in Piiilochorus quoted by Suidas toi>s 
5^ ^pirepas iirivayKes Six^aBai Kal tovs 6pyeuva! Kal tovs &iJ.oyd\aKTas 
(possibly from an old law). The admission of non-Eupatrids to the 
phratries at least by the time of Draco is established by the law of Draco 
quoted in Dem. xliii 57 where 6,puTTivSr]v can scarcely bear any other 
meaning than 'from the nobles.' 

8 Thumser (Hermann, LehrTmcW 319 — 20) assumes ;that the dpyeQves 
were new members of the yivq admitted after the incorporation of 



of the 761/0? and therefore including strictly all members 
of the 761/0?^°) were, in a special sense, the non-Eupatrid 
members admitted to the yevo<i by the fiction of common 
religious rites. This fictitious method of admission tended 
to make the 761/09 into a political institution, and it is 
quite possible that before Cleisthenes it served as an 
artificial division of the population". 

By the time of Solon then, if not before, the commons 
were admitted to citizenship. Solon's reforms had effected 
their political emancipation, but they had left the tribal 
organisation of Attica unaffected : the privilege of citizen- 
ship depended on admission to a 761/0?, an organisation 
dominated by noble influence. Thus Solon, if he took 
away the political privileges of the aristocracy, left their 
personal influence unimpaired. Hence his reforms made 
but little practical difference to Athenian history. 

Factions and seditions broke out immediately after his 
departure from Athens'^ and his constitution seems never 
to have been actually realised, until Cleisthenes, by changes 
of organisation, made it possible for the institutions of 
Solon to do their work. Cleisthenes' reforms were not 

1** Bekker I.e. y^vot iarl aOartj^a iK rpi6,Kovra Avdpicv ffw^arihs, o0 ol 
jtter^XOPTes ^KtiKovvro yevvTJrai (in the general sense of the word), oi Karh 
y^vos dXXiJXois TrpoaTjKOVTes , oi)5' d-rrb rou a^iToO aifiaro^, d.\\b,. . .KOi,viaviav Tiva 
^XovT€^...t7vyyevLK^v dpyiojv t] BeCiVf &tp* tSv dpyeojves ibvofxijad'qffav. From 
this it would appear that dpryeuves was wide enough to include all yev- 
vijTai, but it appears from other passages that it was especially used in 
opposition to 6iM>yd\aKTes. 

^^ In Bekker I.e. the yivos is defined as a ffiarfiiia, iK Tpi&KovTa &vbpwv 
t7vveaT(bt: Harpocration explains yevi'TJTaL as o^x oi (rvyyeveis aTrXws* dXX 
ol i^ dpxv^ ^Is TO. KoKo^i^cva y^yrj KarapefiTid^vTes. 

1^ Ar. Ath. Pol. 13. The compromise effected after the expulsion of 
Damasias seems to point to some feeling between the orders, but the 
incident is too obscure to help us very much. 

THE ATHENIAN <^kvr\. 101 

intended to introduce new principles into the constitution, 
to increase the power of the people or even to extend the 
franchise to any great extent. Their object and effect 
was to alter the social organisation, to break the personal 
influence of the Eupatrids, to divorce the conduct of the 
government from any connexion with the r^km]. It would 
be beyond the province of this essay to discuss the reforms 
of Cleisthenes ; but I wish to consider the accounts of his 
work, in so far as they throw light on the aristocratic 
organisation of the Solonian constitution. 

The clearest account of his work is given in Aristotle's 
Constitution of Athens ch. 21. The introduction of ten new 
tribes needs no commentary. It was intended to 'mix 
(the population) in order that more might take part in 
politics ' (§ 2). oOev ikexdv '^o' to fir) <f>v\.oKpi,veiv, tt/jos 
TOW e^erd^etv to, yevr) ^ovXa/ievovi. The meaning of 
this passage is not obvious, but the last clause is most 
important. 'The saying arose "don't distinguish tribes" 
addressed to those who wanted to find out the jivoi: of 
anybody.' Under the new constitution the yevT) were not 
connected with the local tribes, and membership of a 
yevo'; was no longer necessary to citizenship. New citizens 
had been created, who had not belonged to the old yivr] : 
for their sake reference to the Yevi; was to be avoided, but 
the passage would be devoid of meaning if we supposed 
that only the Eupatrids had hitherto been admitted to 
the yevT], We need not discuss the local organization 
introduced by Cleisthenes (§§ 3 and 4) : but at the end 
of § 4 there is a passage which needs explanation and 
also, I venture to think, emendation. The passage is as 
follows : 

Kal Br] flora'} iiroLrfaev aKKrjXmv tov? olKovvTa<! ev 


eKna-TO) rS)v Btj/mwv, 'iva firj irarpodev •7rpo<rayopevovTe<i 
i^eXiyx^axriv tov<; z/eoTToXtra?, dXXa twv Sijficov dvayopev- 
axTbv odev kuI KaXovaiv Adrjvaioi (T<f)a<i avrovi toov 

With the reading irarpoOev the passage seems mean- 
ingless to me. In the first place there is no reason why a 
Greek of alien origin should declare his non-Athenian 
birth by quoting his father's name : many of the same 
names were found in different states : it would be im- 
possible to say off-haad whether a name were of Athenian 
origin or not. Secondly both before and after Cleisthenes 
Athenians were called officially by their father's name, 
and when the practice of adding a man's deme was intro- 
duced it did not drive out the custom of quoting his 
father's name". But if we assume that before Cleisthenes 
a man was called by his gentile name", as he naturally 
would be if his citizenship depended on his membership 
of a jevo<;, then Cleisthenes did introduce a change and the 
motive of citing the man's deme is obvious. It seems to 
me that the exact sense required would be given by the 
alteration of one letter, the substitution of the rare word 
■irdTpaOev, which has perhaps been driven out by the 
more familiar irarpodev. ndrpadev in the sense of ' by 
his clan name ' would contrast the old organisation by 
yevTj with the new organization by SfjfjLoi,, and the motive 
assigned is ' citizens were no longer to be called by their 
yivT], lest the new citizens (who had not been included in 

'2 The practice was so constant that it does not seem necessary to 
quote examples. If any were needed the tablets of ostracism, dating 
only a few years after Cleisthenes (quoted by Dr Sandys, Constitution of 
Athens p. 88), would be sufficient. 

1* There are many instances in which a man's 7^05 is quoted : Hdt. 
V 55 ; T 66 ; Ar. Ath. Pol. 20 1. 

THE ATHENIAN '^evi). 103 

a yivoif) should be discovered at once; they were to be 
cited by their detnes.' This agrees with the clause in the 
second section Trpo? tov<s i^erd^eiv ra lyevr} ^ovKoixevov^. 
Everything was done to prevent the 'yevo<; from having any 
influence whatever on politics : on the one hand the new 
citizens must be put on a level with the old, on the other 
hand men must exercise their political power simply as 
citizens not as members of a 761/os, and every effort was 
made to prevent members of a 761/0? from acting together. 

I have now to establish, as far as it is possible, the use 
of the word irarpaOev. This form is found, I think, only 
once (Pind. Nem. 7 70), but in the exact sense required. 
Ev^eviSa irdrpade X<oyeve<i, says Pindar, honouring a man 
by citing his clan. Ildrpa, however, occurs more fre- 
quently. It bore two distinct meanings, fatherhood (i.e. 
clan, and so equivalent to •yevo'i) and fatherland. In the 
former sense it is defined by Dicaearchus as identical with 
•yivoi, and inscriptions prove that it was so employed in 
Thasos, Rhodes and other places", and Pindar uses it 
constantly as an equivalent of ot«o? and yevia". Else- 
where (in old Ionic) according to the lexicons it was used 
almost always in the sense of Trarpts". 

Is it not permissible to suppose that in the sixth 
century B.C. irdrpa was used in Attic, in a sense which 
might include both ideas (fatherhood and fatherland) and 
that nrdrpadev at any rate bore the special sense of ' by 

" F. H. G. ii 238. The insoriptiona are cited by Gilbert, Handbuch ii 
p. 302. 

w Find. Nem. 4 77 ; 6 41 ; 8 46 ; Pyth. 8 38 ; Isthm. 5 (6) 63 (all 
referring to Aegina) : Nem. 11 20 (referring to Tenedos). 

" In II. xiii 354 it is used in the sense of fatherhood ; and in Hdt. vi 
126-it would give a better sense if we could translate it descent. 


his clan ' ? We know that the word was so used in other 
Ionic communities, and it was perhaps the archaic equiva- 
lent of 762^09, possibly quoted by Aristotle from an actual 
law of Cleisthenes''. 

'8 Is it possible that irarpiJJos is connected with irdrpa as the god of 
the clan, and may patricius in Latin have been connected with a word of 
similar meaning and denoted originally those who were the only true 
members of the original^entes {gentiles)? 


Varieties of Oligarchy. 

§ 28. Principles of Classification. 

We have seen in the preceding chapters that whether 
we study the character of constitutions or whether we 
trace their historical development, there is a clear prin- 
ciple of separation between the aristocracy of birth and 
the oligarchy of wealth. But in discussing the organisa- 
tion of government, the division of political functions and 
the details of political institutions, we can no longer keep 
the two constitutions apart : on the one band the character 
of oligarchical institutions can only be understood by 
tracing their original type as it existed in the aristocratic 
state, on the other hand there is so general a similarity 
between the forms and method of the two governments 
that it would be idle to consider one apart from the other. 
Except in so far as different qualifications for citizenship 
or other variations of principle separate them, they will 
be treated in common. 

We must first arrive at some principle by means of 
which different forms of oligarchical government may be 
distinguished. Oligarchy is the government of ' a part^,' 

1 Cf. Thuc. vi 39 1, Athenagoras says iyit> d4 4>rini irpura lihi S9)ii.ov 
^i/iirav <ivo/i,d<rBat, dXiyapxiav S^ fiipoi. In ii 37 Pericles says of Athens 
iica<rTos...oiK iirb n4povs.,Js to KOiva. . .irponfiaTOi. 


not of the whole: by some principle of selection men, 
otherwise on an equality, are divided into two classes : 
those who belong to the minority possess political privi- 
leges and are defined as 'those within the constitution'; 
the rest have no political rights and are ' without the con- 
stitution^' This characteristic offers a satisfactory test 
for the subdivision of oligarchies, and they may be classi- 
fied in accordance with the conditions required for citizen- 
ship, using that word to denote active political rights'. 
The qualification for citizenship was not in all states the 
same as the qualification for the magistracies*; but this 
distinction is not of sufiicient importance to affect our 

In the following pages I discuss the different varieties 
of oligarchies, in so far as this principle enables us to 
distinguish them. The classification is of necessity em- 
pirical and incomplete. I have collected the available 

2 The distinotion into oi iv ry iroXirelg, or oi 4v tiJ TroXtTei/iaTi and oi 
cKTos or oi J|w, whicli is oharaoteristio of oligarchy, occurs again and 
again in Aristotle. It is unnecessary to quote instances: both classes 
are alluded to in Pol. viii 8 1308 a 6. The privileged body is often called 
rb iro\irev/j,a and this is defined as rd Kipiov tuiv irbXeitiv, Cf, Pol, iii 6 
1279 a 25; 1279 b 11. 

' I have quoted Aristotle's definition of 'citizen' in § 4 n. 2. We 
must remember that he uses apx>) to include all political functions, as he 
explains in the same passage that participation in the assembly or law 
courts is as adpurros dpxn- Aristotle uses apx^ and dpxal in two senses 
(1) generally of citizenship : (2) specially of magisterial powers. But in 
the definition of the different forms of oligarchy (discussed in the next 
section) there is no doubt that he uses the word in its general sense. 
The passage quoted in the next note contains an instance of the special 

* Ax. Pol. viii 6 1305 b 30 iv 6<Tai.s dXiyapxlfits ovx o5to( alpoOvrai t&s 
cipxai ^1 ui' oi dpxovTis elnv, dXX' ai /xiv cipxal iK nfiTuxaTUi' /ieydXav eMv 
Tj eraipiwy, alpovvraL 5' ol oTrXixat rj 6 drjfj.os. See below, § 41. 

§ 29] Aristotle's division of oligarchies. 107 

evidence on the different categories of oligarchies or aris- 
tocracies, but I have not been able to avoid cross divisions, 
and many particular constitutions might be classed under 
more than one of the subdivisions. The 'aristocracy of 
birth and land ' includes in some cases the ' aristocracy of 
conquest ' or ' the aristocracy of kingly family ' : aristo- 
cracies, when narrowed and degenerate, become ' dynastic 
governments ' ; but it has seemed the best course to 
discuss all the forms to which we find allusion made in 
our authorities. 

I 29. Aristotle's Division of Oligarchies. 

Aristotle enumerates and defines four forms of oli- 
garchy', and distinguishes' also aristocracy^ and polity^ 
defined as mixed constitutions, the one inclining to oli- 
garchy, the other to democracy*. 

The classification is neither scientific nor exhaustive ; 
its value lies in the recognition of the principle of de- 
gree". 'The broad object which Aristotle had in view,' 
as Mr Newman says", ' was to uproot the general impres- 
sion that there are but two or three constitutions, and 
that oligarchy and democracy have' each of them only one 

1 The four forms are enumerated in Pol. vi 5 1292 a 38 and defined 
with more detail ib. 6 1293 a 11. In this section I shall not quote more 
particular references, and it must be assumed that I am referring to these 
passages unless other references are given. 

2 Aristooraey in its different forms is defined ib. 7 1293 biff. 

3 Polity is defined ib. 9 1293 a 35 ff. 

* Ib. 8 1293 b 35. 

" Of. Plato Rep. viii 551 e yd/iov rWevTai Spov iroXireias dXiyapx^ic^i 
Toid/ievoi, irX^flos x/"7M''<^''t "S /ih fiaWoD 6\iyapxla, n\hv, oB 5' ^ttok, 

* Introduction, p. 494. 


form.' He is careful to lay stress on the superiority of 
the moderate forms of either oligarchy or democracy to 
the extreme forms ; and his lesson was needed, for there 
was a strong tendency in Greece to intensify the ruling 
characteristics of the constitutions'. The extreme oli- 
garchy was almost a tyranny, the most moderate form 
was but little removed from a moderate democracy, and 
Aristotle describes it in almost the same terms^ 

The first principle applied to the subdivision of oli- 
garchies is connected with the conditions qualifying for 
citizenship. A second test is afforded by the method 
of admitting those who attained the qualification to the 
active exercise of citizen rights. Political privilege might 
be offered freely to all who fulfilled certain conditions ; 
it might be extended to the excluded only at the discre- 
tion of the ruling body; or the ranks of the privileged, 
once fixed, might be closed against all without the pale. 
This distinction is important. In sentiment and in 
conduct there must have been the greatest difference 
between governments constantly recruited by fresh blood 
and close corporations which jealously guarded their 
privileges against the rest. Lastly, Aristotle has another 
means of distinction. Oligarchies are either ruled ac- 
cording to law or they are controlled by the caprice of 
individuals, a criterion which also enters into his classifi- 
cation of constitutions in general. 

' On the intensification of constitutions see Ar. Pol. vii 5 1319 b 32. 
The champions of oligarchy and democracy were not content with the 
moderate forms ; they strove to increase their worst characteristics. Of. 
Thuc. V 81 (the Spartans) t6. iv ^ckvuvi is dXiyovs fiaWov Kar^ffTTjirav. 

8 Of. Pol. vi 6 1292 b 25—38 with ib. 1293 a 12—20. If neither 
passage is corrupt, the repetition of the same phrases in both definitions 
is strange. 

§ 29] Aristotle's division of oligarchies. 109 

The four forms of oligarchy described by Aristotle 
corresponded, no doubt, to the oligarchic governments 
with which he was most familiar. But there is a certain 
inconsistency in his method, and the enumeration cannot 
be regarded as complete. He distinguishes two moderate 
forms of oligarchy, based on the assessment of property, 
both ruled in accordance with law, and two extreme forms, 
based upon birth (a condition not involved in his defi- 
nition of oligarchy), one observing the law, the other 
tyrannical and arbitrary. Now there can be no under- 
lying principle, which should prevent oligarchies of birth 
from being moderate, or oligarchies of wealth from being 
extreme : and examples might be quoted to show the 
insufficiency of Aristotle's definitions. Moreover, in the 
governments of birth it is implied that wealth will ac- 
company birth, but nothing is said as to how the diverse 
claims should be reconciled, if they are in conflict. We 
must not expect to find in Aristotle's classification an 
exhaustive description of all the oligarchies of Greece, 
but we may suppose that he included the types most 
familiar to his experience, which had been evolved in 
the development of constitutions. As such they must 
be considered. 

The first form is a government ' based on a property 
qualification sufficient to exclude the poor (who form a 
majority), but admitting to citizenship anyone who at- 
tains the necessary qualification : while, owing to the 
large number of citizens, the law must be sovereign.' 
This form is very similar to the first form of democracy 
(which differs, however, in admitting a majority to citizen- 
ship) : it would be impossible to mark any distinction 


between this and the polity based on moderate pro- 

The second form is the government of ' a lesser num- 
ber of men, having a higher property qualification, who 
owing to their greater power desire aggrandisement, and 
therefore they themselves choose from the many those 
who are to join the citizen body, but not being strong 
enough to rule without law, they give this function to 
law.' Aristotle seems to have in his mind an ' oligarchy 
of fixed number"' in which vacancies are filled by co- 
optation on the part of the rulers. This form supplies 
a link between the first oligarchy in which citizenship is 
always accessible and the other forms in which the ranks 
are altogether closed. 

The third form is a close government in which ' son 
succeeds father,' and it is further defined as that in 
which ' a smaller number have still larger properties.' 
It is impossible to get any clear idea of the constitution 
which Aristotle has in view. If he means that only the 
eldest sons succeed their fathers, he is describing the 
'oligarchy of heads of families"'; but if it is simply a 
government based upon hereditary descent, in which all 
a citizen's sons are admitted, then they could not all 
have had the large amount of property that he seems 
to consider essential. 

The fourth form is also a close hereditary oligarchy, 
constituted in a similar way to the third form, but 
ruled according to the caprice of the rulers and not 
in accordance with law. It is tyrannical in character, 

9 See oh. i § 5. i" See below § 38. 

" See below § 34. 


and is further defined as occurring when men are ex- 
cessively powerful owing to their property and their 

To conclude Aristotle's classification, that government 
is aristocratic which is based on virtue as well as wealth ; 
while the mixture of democracy and virtue is also defined 
as aristocratic. In this connexion virtue implies the 
qualification either of birth or of training". Polity, 
regarded as the government of a minority based on a 
moderate property, is included in the definition of the 
first form of oligarchy. 

§ 30. Aristocracy of Birth and Land. 

We have seen that aristocracy was a stage of consti- 
tutional development through which all states passed, and 
it is obvious that it is not a form of government which 
can easily be established afresh in an old constitution. 
Except, therefore, for aristocracies based on conquest, we 
have only to consider the instances of states in which 
the ordinary aristocracy survived. These were naturally 
those in which industry and commerce never became of 
much importance ; for the survey of the history of Greek 
constitutions shows that the rise of strong commercial 
and industrial classes must in the long run be fatal to 
the pretensions of an aristocracy of birth. Aristocracy, 
therefore, was found in states in which land was the only 
form of wealth, and the land was owned for the most 

'2 This is the Swaarela. See below § 35. 

1' See oh. i § 6. In Pol. vi 7 1293 b 10 (quoted in the next section 
n. 1) dpurHiidTiv probably does not connote more than the qualification of 
dper^, but ib. 1. 37 it is implied that the ideas of vaiSela and eiyheia are 
included under the term dperi}. 


part by the nobles or (in an aristocracy of conquest) by 
the ruling class. It follows from this that the qualifi- 
cation of birth in an aristocratic constitution included 
also the qualification of wealth, whether a fixed mini- 
mum of property were required to be held by all the 
citizens or not. The ordinary type of aristocracy was one 
in which only the members of certain privileged families 
were admitted to citizenship : the government was ad- 
ministered by a supreme council and such magistrates 
as were required. Usually speaking the nobles were 
all equally privileged to hold office, but many states 
required their citizens to hold a certain amount of 
property^. The possession of land, which was a natural 
accompaniment of noble birth, became itself a qualifica- 
tion for citizenship. Such a condition involved certain 
difficulties. Originally, no doubt, land was held by the 
r/ivt) in joint ownership, and, as long as population did 
not increase too fast, there was no difficulty in providing 
for the needs of all the members. But when once the 
idea of separate ownership was established, there must 
have been the greatest difficulty in maintaining anything 
like an equal distribution of property. On the one hand, 
the owner of a lot of land might have a number of sons 
and yet be able to provide for only one of them. In 
some states the difficulty was met by admitting only the 
eldest son to privilege, and so the ' government of heads 

1 Aristotle in his definition of an aristooratio constitution (Pol. vi 7 
1293 b 10) says it is oVou ^tj iibvov ■rr\ovTlvSr]v dWcfc Kal &purTlvSr]v alpoOvrac 
rds ipxii^- Cf. Ar. Ath. Pol. 3 1 (on the aristocratic constitution of 
Athens) and Strabo x 447 of Chalois Trpoii!Tri<raj>...airi Ti/iifpidTuv &v5pes 
dpiaTOKpaTtKciJs &pxovTes (where Awb TLfj.ijfjuirtav corresponds to irXovrivdiji' : 
dpiffTOKpaTLKUJS to &pL(rTLvd7iv). 


of families' was established''. This was not a frequent 
solution, and, as Aristotle saw, the whole question of popu- 
lation was involved'. Adoption offered a partial solution 
of the difficulty*, but there might still be too many sons 
for the property to maintain, and it is possible that in- 
fanticide and exposure were practised more frequently 
in aristocracies than elsewhere in order to meet the diflS- 
culty". There was also the opposite danger to be con- 
sidered: if the transfer of property were allowed, many 
of the nobles might become impoverished (while a few 
got most of the land into their hands), and in this way 
the number of the citizens would decline. The remedy 
devised to meet this was the division of the land into 

2 See below § 34. 

' Ar. Pol. ii 6 1265 a and b passim, especially ib. a 38 dTowof Si Kal 
rd 7-ds KT^iTEis Iffd^ovra t4 irepl to TrXijOos tuv TroXirdv pJr) KOTaffKeudffw. 
The difficulty in the Spartan state was met at first by her continued 
conquests. Afterwards the opposite danger befell the Spartans. Their 
rigid system tended to the decline of population and the consequent 
inequality of property. 

* This was the legal fiction employed to prevent the extinction of a 
yivoi. Plato lays stress on adoption in the Laws v 740 o. 

^ There is very little evidence. Ar. Pol. ii 6 1265 b 12 says that 
Phidon of Corinth tous o^kous ilirous (^li^ij Seiv Sia/Uneii' xal t6 ttX^Sos twc 
jroXiTuv, but he does not say how this was secured. At Thebes {ib. ii 12 
1274 b 3) Fhilolaus legislated Trepi rijs iraiSoiroUas, oOs KaXoOffiv iKeTvoi vSfiovs 
BcTiKois. Aelian V. H. ii 7 says the law at Thebes prohibited exposure, 
but allowed a father to sell his children into slavery. Cf. Plato i?ep. v 
459 D where the exposure of the unfit is suggested, and Laws v 740 d 
where the highest magistracy is to deal with 'the redundant or deficient,' 
and various means are specified. Ar. Pol. ii 10 1272 a 21 (speaking of 
Crete) alludes to another method: vphi Si tV iXiyojirlav is ii(pi\iii.op 
iroWii ire<pLKoff6<p7jKev o vofwdirris, Kal irpds t-^v 5tdfei;|iw twv yvvaiKuv, iva 
fiTj TToKvreKvuKTt, TT)v irpos rods dppevas TroL^cras dfiiXiav. In Crete (and pos- 
sibly elsewhere) iraiSepaa-Ha (a specially oligarchic vice) assumed a politi- 
cal aspect, as a check on redundant population. 

W. 8 


fixed lots, which their owners were forbidden to alienate. 
There was in many states what amounted to a law of 
entail. A distinction was drawn between the lots which 
were supposed to have been originally apportioned, and 
land acquired subsequently: and the lots might not be 
sold. To take examples'': at Sparta 'it was disgraceful 
to sell land at all, but it was unlawful to dispose of the 
ancient lot''; at Thebes Philolaus is said to have taken 
measures 'to preserve the number of the lots*'; in East 
Locris, a place of strong aristocratic sentiment, a man 
might not dispose of his land except in case of manifest 
poverty': in Leucas also there were provisions for the 
preservation of the original lots^", as there were at Elis". 
We are told that the possession of citizen rights at 
Leucas depended on the possession of the lot of land, 
and we may suppose that similar provisions held in 
other places. In spite of these provisions there was a 
tendency for these close hereditary aristocracies to de- 
cline in numbers. At Sparta, some time in the fourth 
century, the restraint on the sale of land was removed 
with such disastrous consequences that in the third 
century the land of Lacedaemon had got into the hands 

** Ar. Pol. vii 4 1319 a 10 tJi* 5^ t6 ye d-pxcuov iv TroXKah Tr6\eat vevo/j-o- 
derrj^iivov /xijd^ irojXeti' i^eipat tovs irpdirovs KXijpovs. Aristotle recognises 
the benefit of such provisions in oligarchies : Pol. viii 8 1309 a 20 iv d' 
6\Lyapxl<^ 5ei. ..rds KK-qpovofiiai firj Kara bbaiv etvai dXXoL Karh yivos, fj/rid^ 
TrXetdvijJV tj /xlcLs rhv airhv KXripovofxetv. ovno yap hp ofmKdjrepai at ovtxlai 

7 Heraclides, P. H. G. ii 211 ; Pint. Inst. Lac. 22. 

8 Ar. Poi. iil2 1274 b 2. 

^ lb. ii 7 1266 b 19. (It is probable that Aristotle is referring to East 

10 lb. 1. 21. 11 lb. Tii 4 1319 a 12. 


of a hundred rich men, while the rest were disfranchised 
and impoverished^^ The philosophers accepted the aristo- 
cratic traditions ahout the ownership of land, and both 
Plato and Aristotle provided that each citizen was to have 
one or more lots of land^^ 

There were probably many states in which citizenship 
was based upon a qualification of landed property, even 
after the aristocracies of birth had passed away". Thus 
the earliest form of timocratic constitution took only 
landed property into account", and there was a tendency 
in the colonies to divide the land taken into occupation 
in lots among the first colonists, and to establish the 
rights of the original settlers. These formed in many 
states the governing body. 

§ 31. Aristocracy of ' Original Settlers' 

Professor Freeman, in speaking of the Greek colonies', 
says ' Nowhere else is what we may call the aristocracy of 
original settlement so likely to grow up. The first settlers 
divide the land, and so long as the new settlement is weak, 
they may welcome new comers ; but as soon as its numbers 
are large enough for the needs of an independent city, the 

1= Plut. Agis 5 : ef. Ar. Pol. ii 9 1270 a 16 rois f^iv aiT&v a-v/j-^ipriKe 
KeKTyaOat ttoXXtjj' \iav oiulaVf Tois bk ird^irav fiiKpAv' didirep els dXiyovs ^k€v 

1* Apart from the communistic scheme of the Republic, the citizens 
in the Laws are to have lots of land, divided into two parts, and these 
are to be inalienable {Laws v 740 a b : 745 c). Aristotle assigns to each 
citizen of his best state two lots of land {Pol. iv 10 1330 a 15). 

" See below § 36 n. 4. 

'5 Of. the constitution of Solon, and of Leucas. 

' History of Sicily ii p. 11 : cf. Newman's Introduction, p. 375. 



descendants of the elder settlers are no longer willing to 
admit such new comers to any share in their hereditary 
right.' This condition of affairs gave rise to the special 
form of constitution in which privilege was limited to 
those who claimed descent from the original landholders 
of the colony. With this I think we should identify the 
so-called governments of ' landowners ' of which we hear 
in Syracuse" and Samos°, and under another name in 
Miletus^ In Apollonia on the Ionian gulf and in Thera 
the government was in the hands of the first settlers, who 
were of illustrious birth^ We chiefly hear of these govern- 
ments in connexion with seditions : for the privileged 
position of the landholders and the exclusion of new 
settlers from the government were a most frequent cause 
of discord. Aristotle says that the greater number of 
cities which received new settlers were involved in 
faction', and among many instances we may mention 
Apollonia on the Euxine', Byzantium^ and Gyrene", 
where the mediation of Demonax was required to settle 
the conflicting claims of the different elements in the 

2 Diod. viii/r. on 01. xi i; Marm. Par. 37. Hesjohius gives different 
definitions of yajj.6poi : the most correct seema to be ol dwi tuv eyycicav 

TifiTJ^dTOJV TO, KOiVa dt4irOVT£S. 

8 Plut. Q. G. 57: Thuc. viii 21. 

* Plut. Q. G. 32 gives an obviously aetiological explanation of deivaO- 
TM. Gilbert, Handbuch ii p. 139, connects tbe word with j/ato. 

* Ar. Pol. vi 4 1290 b 11 ^v raU nficu! ^aav oi 8i.a<pipovTes xar ^iyhaav 
Kal TrpuTOi KaTa<rx6i'T€S ras ciTroLKlas. 

8 Pol. viii 3 1303 a 27 Si6 dltroi ijSri a-vvoUovs idi^avro tj iiroUovi, ol 
TrXeZtrrot SieaTaffio-ffdv . 
' lb. 1. 36. 

8 lb. 1. 33. 

9 Hdt. ivl59ff. 


§ 32, Aristocracy based on Conquest. 

A special form of aristocracy, in which also the ruling 
class owned the best land of the state, was that arising 
from the conquest of one race by another invading race. 
Here we have not to deal primarily with the existence of 
a separate order of nobles; the conquerors as a whole 
constitute a class superior to the conquered, of whom 
some are reduced to serfdom, while others occupy a more 
favourable position. This special division of classes is 
typical of the aristocracy of conquest^ We find this 
aristocracy, on a more or less uniform plan, not only in 
the Dorian states of the Peloponnesus^, in Crete, and to 
a certain extent in Thera, but also in Thessaly: while 
both in Boeotia and Elis the ruling class owed their posi- 
tion to the right of conquest. The rulers owned the best 
lands and these were cultivated for them by serfs. 

These aristocracies may be divided into two classes. 
In some all members of the conquering race were equally 
privileged; in others there existed differences of rank 
within the circle of the conquerors, which gave to some 
families a superiority over the rest. 

Thus in Thessaly the government of the different towns 
was held by a few noble families, all of them tracing their 
descent from Heracles, while so far as we can trace their 
followers had no share whatever in the government'. 

^ These class divisions are discussed below § 50. 

2 There seem to have been similar constitutions originally in the 
Dorian states. The same class divisions can be traced in Argos, Sioyon, 
Thera, Crete, Epidaurus as in Sparta. 

* The noble families, the Aleuadae, Scopadae etc., traced their 
descent from Heracles. The government is specially described as a 
Swaanla (Thuc. iv 78) : corresponding to the fourth form of oligarchy, 


This special form of the government of birth the Greeks 
called dynasty. In Boeotia also we may assume that the 
nobles had complete control of the government, and in 
process of time the Theban government assumed the 
character of a dynasty*. The same appears to be true of 
Elis° also and of Epidaurus". 

On the other hand in Sparta and Crete, although we 
can trace distinctions of birth within the circle of the 
privileged', larger powers seem to have been given to the 
conquering race as a whole ; and the Spartiates were 
considered, in themselves, to form a demos of equally 
privileged citizens. 

Another common characteristic of aristocracies of con- 
quest was that they usually had a distinctively military 
organisation. The conquerors had won their position by 
force of arms ; they held sway over a population of sub- 
jects, immensely superior in number to themselves, usually 
disaffected and often breaking into revolt. Such a rela- 

desoribed by Aristotle. Ar. Pol. viii 6 1306 a 10 attests the existence of 
a strong, united but narrow oligarchy in Pharsalus: viii 6 1305 b 28 
mentions an oligarchy at Larisa, in which the people elected the TroXtro- 
(jiiXaKe^ (the chief magistrates) and the constitution was overthrown at 
some date not specified (viii 6 1306 a 26). 

* The aristocracy at Thebes was based on the lots of land (see p. 
73 n. 3) : but the commons do not seem to have been altogether excluded: 
Hdt. V 79 (of the year 507 B.C.) mentions aXlij at Thebes. By the time 
of the Persian wars the Theban government was a Swasrela (Thue. 
iii 62). 

' See the description in Ar. Pol. viii 6 1306 a 15. 

6 See Plut. in § 38 n. 14. 

' At Sparta the yipovres were chosen from oi /caXol Kovafloi (Ar. Pol. ii 
9 1270 b 24) : these are assumed to be a class of nobles. This has been 
disputed; for a discussion of the question see ^Gilbert, Handbuch v' 
p. 13 n. 1. At Crete certain yivri were privileged : the xdcrfioi. were chosen 
from them (Ar. Pol. u 10 1272 a 33). 


tion could only be maintained by tbe most unflagging 
vigilance on the part of the rulers. The whole of the 
Spartan and Cretan training was a preparation for war; 
and the lives of the citizens were practically spent in 
camp. It is not necessary to discuss the familiar details 
of the Spartan and Cretan systems; it is sufficient to 
point out that such methods of training and life were 
essential to a constitution based on similar conditions. 
This was formally recognised at Sparta, where it was 
a condition of citizenship that the Spartiate should go 
through the whole of the training*: there is no doubt 
that the same rule held in Crete', and it may also have 
been enforced elsewhere. These are the states which 
made 'training' an essential condition of citizenship"*. 
The 'practice' and 'training' of the Spartan system are 
referred to again and again by Thucydides ; their 'native 
virtue' is praised, and above all their 'changeless ordi- 
nances' and their blind submission to the law receive 
constant mention". 

s Plut. Inst. Lac. 21 twv toKctQp 6s &v fii] iiTOfieivri t^v rujv iraiScav 
dyojyiiv, o6 fiereixe tuv ttjs 7r6\ews SiKaitav. Xen. Resp. Lac. 10 7 shows 
that this constituted the difference between the S/iotoi. and the dis- 
franchised {iiro/ieloves). 

' The Cretan system was as rigid as the Spartan and must have been 
a necessary condition of citizenship, but I do not know that this is 
anywhere expressly stated. 

1" Ar. Eth. X 9 1180 a 24 h> ixbvTi di ry AaKeSaifiovlav irSXei <:i7> /ier' 
dXiyttJv 6 ffofiod^Trjs iin/j.^eiap SoKei Te-jrotTJaBaL rpotftys re Kal iiTLTtjSevfidTtay. 
There may have been other states which practised this training originally. 

1^ Xen. Resp. Lac. 10 5 ^ SjrdprTj fiovij drjfiocrig. i-jnTtjSeOovffa t^v koKo- 
K&yadlav. Cf. Ar. Eth. quoted in n. 10 ; Thuc. i 84 (oans h toIs (ii'07- 
KaLOTtiTois TratSeiJeTat). Thucydides also harps on dperi^i trbvos and jueXeriJ 
(see i 123 ; ii 39 ; V 69 ; vi 11). In Thuc. i 68 the Corinthians talk of 
the ^Klvryra vbiuiM of the Spartans : cf. i 77 ; iii 37 (vb/j-oi 6.Klvryroi) ; v 105 


§ 33. Aristocracy of the Kingly Family. 

I proceed to discuss some other special forms of aris- 
tocracy. Of these one of the most frequent is the aristo- 
cracy of the royal house. In tracing the extinction of 
kingship I called attention to one method by which the 
aristocratic government might be established. Power 
might be exercised not by a single king but by the whole 
of the royal race. This is due to the inherent similarity 
between aristocracy and the old monarchy. The ruling 
family might cease to give the supreme authority to a 
single man and resume the sovereignty themselves. In a 
large number of the Ionian colonies of Asia Minor and 
the islands, the ruling class traced their descent from the 
kings who were traditionally regarded as the leaders of 
the first colonists^. At Miletus the Neleids formed the 
ruling dynasty" : at Ephesus, Erythrae and Chios we find 
mention of Basilidae, who probably claimed descent from 
kingly families'. At Mitylene the aristocracy of the 

(Aa/ce5at/A6i'iot yap Tpbs <7(pas aurovs Kal Tb, 4tlx^P'-^ vdfitfjia TrXeiara apery 
Xpwi'Tai). Of. Xen. Resp. Lac. 10 7 tois fiev yap ra v6fji.L/ia iKTiKomiv o/wlas 
dVao-i TTjv trbXiv oWdav iirolTja-e. For their 'blind observance of law' of. 
Thuo. i 84 {eS^ov\oi dfi,a8iiTTepov tS>v v6/iuv ttjs {nrepoxpias irai.devdfi.evoi.) ; 
ii 40 ; iii 37 and Xen. Resp. Lac. 8 1 Sri jjiiv ep 'STrdprri /id'Ki.ffTa TrdBovrai. 
raXs dpxcus re Kal rots vdfioa tcfiev aTravres ; cf. Hdt. vii 104. 

1 Hdt. i 147. Most of the colonies were said to have been governed 
by Proclidae or Glauoidae. 

2 Nicol. Dam. P. H. G. iii 388: other authorities are cited in Gilbert, 
Handbuch ii p. 139 n. 1. 

' Strabo xiv 633 mentions /ScwiXeis at Ephesus, who even in his time 
had the insignia of kings. Suidas s.v. HvSayipas mentions Bao-iXISai. 
Ar. Pol. viii 6 1305 b 18 mentions AXiyapxia ^ao-t\id&p at Erythrae. Hdt. 
viii 132 and an inscription {Bull. Corr. Hell, iii 244 cited by Gilbert) 
mention pa<n\eldrjs at Chios. From Strabo it appears that at Ephesus 
the yivos regarded themselves as kings. 


Penthilids succeeded the monarchy of the same race*. In 
Thessaly the noble families who held sway claimed to be 
Heraclids". Thucydides mentions the 'governing race' 
of the Chaones in Epirus°: and the instance of the 
Medontidae at Athens is familiar. Corinth also was ruled 
by a similar aristocracy. For two hundred years the clan 
of the Bacchiadae, claiming descent from Bacchis King 
of Corinth, numbering over two hundred members, ruled 
the city, choosing a yearly chief from their own number 
and excluding all others, both noble and simple, from the 
government. So close was the clan feeling that they only 
intermarried within their own order'. 

In many instances, no doubt, the assertion of royal 
descent was a fiction. The Greeks had a great talent for 
the composition of genealogies, and we know how many 
families claimed descent from gods or heroes. Many of 
the mythical founders of colonies belonged to the heroic 
period and doubtless received heroic honours, and the 
ruling class would naturally be proud to claim descent 
from them. The Basilidae (with whom we may compare 
the Archaeanactidae of Panticapaeum^) doubtless claimed 
royal descent, but such a title might naturally arise as a 
description of nobles, whose ancestors had borne the title 
of ^acriXfje^. Even in Thessaly and Corinth it is difiBcult 

* Ar. Pol. viii 10 1311 b 26. 

^ Find. Pyth, x 1. There is of course plenty of other evidence. 

^ Thuc. ii 80 'S.dov€s d^acfXeuroi, wv TyyovvTO ^tt* iTtifflifi Tvpoffrairiq, ex 
ToO dpx'KoO Y^vous ^cirvos Kal TSixdvup. 

' On the Bacchiadae see Paus. ii 4 4; Diod. vii fr. referring to 
1104 B.C. ; Strabo viii 378 ; Hdt. v 92. 

8 Diod. xii 31 oi toO Kiii/ieplov BoairSpov Pa<n\e6(ravTes, dvofiaffBhres Sk 
' ApxaiavaKTlSai K.r.\. 


to believe that single clans, restricting marriage within 
their own circle, could establish a lasting government. 

Whatever their origin these aristocracies must have 
tended to become narrow and ' dynastic' governments'. 
As long as they maintained their exclusive privileges, 
their numbers must have declined ; and their rulers must 
have become tyrannical in temper and conduct ; such 
aristocracies were provocative of discord and often led to 
a violent sedition in which they were overthrown'". 

§ -34. Aristocracy of Heads of Families. 

The third form of oligarchy' defined by Aristotle is 
that in which son succeeds father^. If we take this to 
imply that only the eldest son succeeds to the political 
rights of his father, he is describing the 'aristocracy of 
heads of houses.' Such governments, in which if the 
father held power, the son was not admitted and of 
several brothers all but the eldest were excluded, are 
mentioned by Aristotle as having existed at Massalia, 
Istros, Heraclea and Cnidus^ The constitution in Plato's 
Laws is based on this principle, for in that there was to 

1 See below § 35. 

1° In many cases the only mention made of these aristocracies is in 
connection with their overthrow. 

' To prevent confusion of phraseology, I may point out that I am 
using aristocracy in the conventional sense defined in § 6 above. Aristotle 
here uses oligarchy in its most general sense. 

2 See above § 29. 

' Ar. Pol. viii 6 1305 b 4 and 12. The gradual reform of these consti- 
tutions was in the direction of first admitting the elder brothers, then the 
younger, so that it assumed the character of an ordinary aristocracy 
based on hereditary descent. 


be a fixed number of citizens and privilege was to depend 
on the possession of an hereditary lot of land, so that the 
son could not succeed during the lifetime of his father. 

Governments of this nature must have acquired a 
representative character; for the privileged families, in 
whose hands the wealth and power of the state rested, 
would share in the government through their head. They 
may have existed in many other states besides the ones 
mentioned above : we lack evidence to prove their ex- 
istence elsewhere, but I think it is probable that the 
Opuntian Locrians were ruled under such a system. We 
hear of a hundred noble houses in Locris* and an as- 
sembly of a thousand ^ and it is open to us to suppose 
that 'the hundred houses' were divided into smaller 
divisions, and that the heads of each of such divisions 
constituted the ruling body. 

Another characteristic to notice in connection with 
this type of government is the privilege that is indirectly 
given to age. If the sons were not admitted to political 
power, as long as their fathers lived, there must have 
been a preponderance of men of mature age in the govern- 
ment. This was in accordance with the general principles 
of oligarchy'. 

* Polyb. xii 5 7 in talking of the Locrians of Italy mentions tcIs eKariv 
oWas Tcts irpoKpiBelaai in the mother city. (Cf. Thuc. i 108.) Polyb. ib. 
§ 6 says that in Locri in Italy descent was traced through women ; this 
was most probably the case in Opus. 

^ In this respect it formed an aristocracy ' of fixed number,' on which 
see below § 38. 

6 See below § 41 n. 25. 


§ 35. The 'Dynastic' Government 

The two sorts of aristocracy last described, together 
with the narrower forms of the aristocracy of conquest, 
would be included in the definitions ascribed by Aristotle 
to the two extreme forms of oligarch)', narrow governments 
in which the sons succeed their fathers : and as it would 
be natural for such governments to rule more by caprice 
than by law they would most of them be described as 

The dynasty as a form of government needs a more 
precise description. It is the government of a few men, 
strong in their wealth and connexions, who do not rule 
by law. In his definition Aristotle implies that such 
governments are always based upon birth, but despotic 
governments like those of the Thirty at Athens^ or of the 
decarchies established by Lysander' would naturally be 
denoted by this title, and Aristotle himself applies it to 
constitutions which do not rest on the qualification of 
birth. Thus he says that such a government results 
when a number of men obtain an excess of power in the 
state^, or when large powers are entrusted to military 
officers, who use them to establish an absolute govern- 
ment in their own interest^ ; he applies the term to the 
rule of some ambitious men at Thurii who managed to 
gain control of the state by re-election to the generalship*. 

1 Ar. Pol. vi 1293 a 30. 

^ Ar. Ath. Pol. 36 1 does describe the government of the Thirty 
as a SvvaffTeia. 

' Xen. Hell, v 4 46 applies the term to the governments established in 
Boeotia under Lacedaemonian protection. 

« Pol. viii 3 1302 b 16. ' Ih. 6 1306 a 24. 

<< lb. 7 1307 a 6 a. 

§35] THE 'dynastic' GOVERNMENT. 125 

The word, like its cognates', had evil associations^ It 
denoted a narrow, despotic oligarchy of individuals, whose 
personal ascendency or connexions made them powerful. 
It was a tyranny of many tyrants, always regarded as 
closely analogous to real tyranny and naturally classed 
with it». 

The term is applied to the close family governments 
in Thessaly" and to the narrow aristocracy of Thebes in 
the time of the Persian wars": at Elis there was a narrow 
oligarchy and the privilege granted to certain families is 
described as SvvacrTevTtKij^. In this connexion it is 
interesting to remember that many oligarchies were 
described as ' tyrannies" ' and that a tyrannical oligarchy 

' It is perhaps worth while to point out that the cognate words Siva/us, 
Swariis and Svv6.aTr)s are often used in a quasi-technical sense. I quote 
one or two examples. Sivanis often exactly corresponds to the Latin 
potentia, power due to wealth, connections etc., and as such was applied 
to the leaders in an oligarchy. Cf. Solon fr. 5 ol d' etxov SivaiJ.Lv k.t.\., 
Thno. viii 73 3 where Sijvafus is contrasted with Trovqpla. Ar. Ath. Pol. 
22 3 speaks of ol iv rois dwd/ieffi. Cf. Eth. viii 10 1161 a 2 oi Stj ylvovrai. 
Kar dpeTTjv at d.px°-^) dXKd 5ta irXouTOy Kal dtjvafuv, Kaddirep iv rais dXiyap- 
Xiai-s- Similarly oi dmarol often denotes the powerful oligarchs (cf. Thuc. 
viii 47 2 ; 48 1; 63 3 ; 73 2), while dwda-Tr/s implies the additional idea of 
lawlessness {Pol. ii 10 1272 b 9). 

8 Plato Politicus 291 n uses it in a perfectly neutral sense of oligarchy 
in general. 

^ Thuc. iii 62 Hirep d^ iffTi vd/xocs fiev Kal T(f (rititppoveffTdrtp ivavTLtbraTov., 
iyyvrdrtt) bk Tvpdvvov, Swaareia 6\iywp dvdpujv. So Aristotle in his 
definition calls it iyylis /lovapxlas. Ar. Pol. viii 3 1302 b 17; 6 1306 a 24 
couples it with tyranny. 

1" Thuc. iv 78. 

" Thuc. iii 62. 

12 Ar. Pol. viii 6 1306 a 15. 

" And. i 75 alludes to the Four Hundred as o! ripavmi. Isocr. iv 105 
applies TvpavveXv to the rule of Svva<TTeiai. Xenophon (Hell, ii 4 1) says 
of the Thirty ibs i^bv ijSri aiSrois Tvpavvetv. (They are first actually called 


was generally regarded as the worst possible kind of 

§ 36. Oligarchy of Wealth. 

Even in the aristocracies of birth the government of 
the few was generally the government of the wealthy : 
in the ordinary oligarchy wealth played a still more 
important part : it was the only requisite qualification, 
and it formed the ' defining principle ' of the constitution^. 
We have seen the importance of landed property in the 
early constitutions, and where the possession of land was 
not restricted to the nobles the early timocratic govern- 
ments were based on landed property^. In states, where 
the land was of fairly uniform character, privilege probably 
depended on the possession of a lot of land of a certain 
size : Solon's system of taking the yearly return of corn 
and oil into account was probably more complicated than 
was generally necessary^ In later times it seems likely 

'tyrants' by Diod. xix 32.) Strabo, viii 378, applies the same term to 
the rule of the Baoohiadae at Corinth. In talking of the factious at 
Mitylene Strabo, xiv 647, says iTvpavvTr/dr} iwb TXadvwv and mentions 
among the rest the KXeavaKriSai. He probably refers not to individual 
tyrants of this family but to a despotic oligarchy, as he says Pittaous 
used his power els rriv tuv SwaaruCbu KaTaK(i(np. (See Gilbert, Handbuch 
ii p. 162 n. 3.) Tbeopompus quoted by Athen. xii 526 refers to the 
oligarchy at Colophon as a rvpawls. 

' Ar. Pol. vi 8 1294 a 11 dXtyapxlas (Spos) ttXoOtos. See above ch. i § 4. 

^ See above § 30 n. 14 : and cf. the description of the constitution of 
Leucas Ar. Pol. ii 7 1266 b 21. 

^ Ar. Ath. Pol. 7 4. The elaborate provisions of Solon's constitution 
were perhaps necessary in Attica, where the quality of the soil varied so 
much. Even so it is strange that those who owned pasturage instead of 
corn-fields or olive-yards should not be assessed on the proper value of 
their property. Cf. Busolt, Staatsaltertiimer^ p. 146 n. 10. Meyer, Ges- 


that in most of the oligarchies proper political privilege 
depended on the possession of a certain amount of wealths 
For oligarchy, as a form of government, was called into 
being by the rise of industry and commerce, and the diffu- 
sion of wealth ; and wealth, apart altogether from the 
method of its acquisition, formed the condition of citizen- 
ship. Most of the Greek states, which did not remain 
petrified in aristocratic forms, developed at some time 
into oligarchies. Some passed into democracies, but 
many of them, including several of the most important 
mercantile states, preserved their oligarchic constitutions. 
And yet we have no account and no clear idea of the 
internal organisation of any timocratic government. What 
amount of property was usually required, when or how it 
was assessed, whether most states demanded a higher 
qualification for the magistracies than for ordinary 
citizenship', these and a hundred other questions must 
remain unanswered. We can only trace the general 
principles which characterised their institutions, and now 
and again find some fragment of evidence, which justifies 
us in forming conclusions about particular constitutions. 

cMchte des Alterthums ii pp. 653 ff., argues that the complicated system 
of assessment ascribed to Solon would not have been introduced at so 
early a period. 

^ Mr Wyse has called my attention to the rarity of evidence for a 
money quaUfioation in oligarchies and suggests that as landed estate 
must always have been a favourite investment for capital, a certain 
qualification in real property may often have been required. I have 
referred at the end of § 30 to the possible survival of such a qualifica- 
tion, though I do not know of aiiy certain instances. In the general 
description of oligarchy the wealth is not defined and I discuss in the 
next few pages what other evidence there is. 

s See ch. v. § 41. 


The first point for discussion is the method by which 
the conditions of citizenship were regulated in oligarchies. 
Oligarchies are usually described vaguely as the govern- 
ments of the 'wealthy,' and even in official decrees we 
find vague phrases like 'those who are best equipped 
with property,' where a definite money qualification is 
implied*. But it is probable that in the ordinary oligarchy 
a census was taken at regular intervals, and from this 
census the roll of citizens was drawn up. It would be 
possible to make privileges depend on some other method, 
such as the amount of taxes paid by a man, but the evi- 
dence points to a regular assessment being normal. We 
do not know whether a man's capital or his income was 
usually assessed', but oligarchy was regarded as the 
government based ' on assessment,' and it is sometimes so 
defined^ Throughout the Politics 'assessment' is con- 
' stantly associated with oligarchy", and Aristotle talks of 
the intervals at which the census is taken in oligarchies". 

* In an inscription from Coroyra C. I. G. 1845 44 iXia-eai Sk rav povXliv 
..Avdpas Tpeis...To{is dwaTUTdrovs xp^l^"-'^'' seems from the connection to 
denote men having a certain property qualification. The phrase is used 
in a technical sense elsewhere. Cf. Thuc. viii 65 3; Ar. Ath. Pol. 29 5 
(where the actual words of the decree may be quoted) : Xen. JSipparch. 
1 9 (quoted by Dr Sandys). 

' In the Soloniah constitution the value of the produce was taken into 
account. The method of assessment at Athens in later times is much 
disputed, but the constitutions of Antipater and Cassander seem to have 
been based on capital not income. Cf. Plato's Laws v 744. 

8 See above ch. i § 4 n. 9. 

^ Cf. the definitions of oUgarchy in Bk vi and see also Pol. ii 6 1266 a 
14 ; iii 5 1278 a 22 ; vii 6 1320 b 22. 
! 1" The intervals mentioned are qne, three, and five years, Pol. viii 8 
1308 a 39. It would be also possible to revise the list at irregular 
intervals, on the decision of the government. See Gilbert, Handbuch V 
p. 412 n. 2. 


Moreover it is clear that when Aristotle mentions the 
political privilege of the rich, he is thinking of those 
whose property has been ascertained by the census", and 
the same will probably be true of other writers. There 
are not many specific instances of particular constitutions 
being described as based on assessment", and there are 
very few in which we are told what amount of property 
was required. Generally speaking we may conclude that 
the amount of property required in an oligarchy was 
large". The amount varied with the character of the 
oligarchy", but as a matter of experience oligarchies 
tended to make the qualification high. ' Where a low 
money qualification was required the constitution was 
defined as a ' poIity'^' Instances of such governments are 
those established by Macedonian influence at Athens at 
the end of the fourth century. Antipater required a 
census of 2000 drachmae^'; Cassander a census of 1000 

To take examples of important oligarchies, of whose 

11 In Pol. iii 12 1283 a 16 o! TrXoiaioi. is repeated in the phrase Hii-qiia 
(pipovres : in vi 13 1297 a 18 oi cSwopoi is repeated as ol ?x<"^" tIhium. 

1^ Strabo x 447 uses djri nii-qiiiruiv of the constitution of Cbalcis, 

but landed property must have been in question. Aristotle mentions 

j changes in the assessment at Ambracia (Pol. viii 3 1303 a 23) and Thurii 

I (ib. 7 1307 a 28), and one of the qualifications for citizenship at Bhegium 

was a certain assessment. See below, § 38 n. 7. 
' 15 See above, p./l4 n. 6. 

" Of. the definitions of the different oligarchies in Ar. Pol. vi ohs. 
5 and 6. 

15 See ch. i § 5. 

1^ Diod. xviii 18 irpoa^Ta^ev dwd Ti^i^treus eTvat. rb TroXfreu/ia Kal rods fji^v 
KCKTTj^ivovs TrXefw dpaxfi'^v SL(rx,i\ibjy Kvplovs elvai. tov 7roXtTeii/*aros Kal ttjs 

1' Diod. xviii 74 rb woKlTev/M SioiKaaBai d7r6 ri/U'^ffewc 4xP' /'"'S'' Sixa. 

w. 9 


constitution little definite information has come down to 

us, I assume that there was an oligarchy of wealth at 

Thebes in the fifth century, where, as Aristotle tells us, 

' the rich ' overcame the democracy^'; and the same is 

I probably true of Megara, Corcyra and Corinth, as well as 

jof Chios and Lesbos, to mention the chief mercantile 

'states that were not under democratic government. 

, Megara was governed by a democracy from about the 

I middle of the fifth century to 424. An oligarchy was then 

' established, praised by Thucydides for its permanence^", in 

which the magistrates were appointed from those oligarchs 

who had been in exile^°. 

Corcyra, one of the most important mercantile states 
of Greece, was said to have been originally colonised by 
the Bacchiadae, and at first they probably controlled the 
government. Their power must have been overthrown 
and interrupted by Periander and was doubtless not 
restored. We may conclude that an ordinary oligarchy of 
wealth was established. In 427 the constitution was 
democratic''', but there are indications which point to the 
existence of an oligarchy six years before when the alliance 
with Athens was concluded. It is difficult otherwise to 
explain the support given by the rulers to the oligarchic 
exiles of Epidamnus, and their general conduct is con- 
sistent with this theory. Thus they seem to have sought 

18 Pol. viii 3 1302 b 28. 

'* Thuc. iv 74 is i\iyapxlav to, iidKLara KariaTYiaav t^v iriKiv. xal 

^vviiieivev. Plato Crito 53 praises Megara for eivo/da. 

^^ Ar. Pol. vi 15 1300 a 17 should probably be referred to this revolu- 
tion. The arrangement was only temporary. 

=1 Died, xu 57. 


the intervention of the Lacedaemonians and they told the 
Corinthians that they would have to make allies of 'those 
they did not wish^,' a natural expression in the mouth of 
oligarchs contemplating alliance with Athens. It was 
natural that the alliance with Athens should strengthen 
the democrats at Corcyra, and the capture of many of the 
leading Corcyraeans by the Corinthians probably made 
the democratic revolution all the easier'^. 

But Corinth was the typical and preeminent oligarchy 
of wealth. From the overthrow of the Cypselids to the 
third century, with a brief interruption of five years, 
Corinth maintained her oligarchic constitution, pursuing 
on the whole a wise and prudent policy, seeking to main- 
tain and extend her commercial relations and by the 
permanence of her constitution attesting the moderation 
of her rulers and their freedom from the usual faults of 
oligarchs. The tyranny of the Cypselids overthrew for 
ever the 'dynasty' of the Bacchiadae and doubtless served 
the usual purpose of the tyranny in fostering trade and 
industry and so promoting the rise of a prosperous middle 
class'". The tyranny was overthrown by the Corinthians 
themselves^'', and we can scarcely doubt that a moderate 
oligarchy of wealth was established^'. Pindar praises 
Corinth for 'good order, justice and peace, stewards of 

22 Thuc. i 28. 23 Thuc. i 55; Ui 70. 

2^ Of. BuBolt Die Lakedaimonier p. 211. 25 Xb. p. 212. 

2^ Busolt (p. 216) Bays 'whether all the nobles, as Dunoker thinks, 
were qualified to participate in the government or whether the rich 
citizens, who were not noble, had such a qualification, cannot be 
established.' He inclines to think that wealth was the only necessary 
condition. Where the evidence is so scanty, none must be neglected, 
and if any reliance may be placed on Cic. De Rep. ii 36 Atque etiam 
Gorinthios video publicis equis adsignandis et alendis orhorum et viduarum 



wealth to men^'.' Corinth was the great oligarchy of 
trade as Athens was the great commercial democracy; and 
we should doubtless gain a better idea of the principles 
and method of oligarchic government from a study of the 
Corinthian constitution than from any other source; but 
unfortunately materials for such a study are altogether 

§ 37. Oligarchy of 'The Knights' and of 'The 

Two special forms of timocratic government were 'the 
constitution of the knights' and 'the constitution of the 

The 'constitution of the knights' was doubtless 
originally aristocratic, as Aristotle says it was the con- 
stitution that succeeded kingship^: but the government 
may have continued to exist in some states on a timocratic 
basis. Knighthood seems to have been a qualification at 
Eretria, Chalcis, Magnesia^ and Cyme'. 

triiutis fuisse quondam diligentes, the arrangements point to a timocratic 
organisation. Of. E. Curtius in Hermes x p. 227. 

" The description is conventional, as 'Eii/ofda, A(ko and Wp^va 
mentioned in Pind. 01. xiii 6 ff. are the three '^pai. We find them simi- 
larly enumerated in a fragment of Isyllus, in Stob. i 5 11. 

^ Certain details of the Corinthian constitution are discussed below. 
So far inscriptions have given us practically no information. 

^ Pol. vi 13 1297 b 16 "7 irpihrT} bk iroXiTela iv roh "^W-qaiv iyhero fierd. 
Tas jSafftXefas e/c twp TroXe^oiWwp, tj ^kv i^ ^pXV^ ^x ^^^ Itttt^uiv. 

^ Ar. Pol. vi 3 1289 b 31 ^ttI twv dpxalojv xp^^'^v 6aaii irbXeaiv h rots 
I'ttttois i] Siivufus rjv, iXiyapxlo-i irapa, Toirois f/iTav...otov "Epcrpicis xal XaX- 
KiScis Kal MdyvT]Tes ol iirl MaiivSpip Kal t&v a\Xu>v iroWol ircpl ttji' 'Afflav. 
At Chalcis the rulers were called 'l7nroj36rai (Strabo x 447 ; Plut. Per. 23 ; 
Hdt. V 77). 

3 Cf. Heracl. F. H. G. ii 216 ^eldtav . , .■n-'Kiloai. /j^t^Soikc tyjs TroXirelas, 
v6fj.Qv 6ds, ^Kaarov iirdvayKes Tp^(pet.v Xirirov. 


The 'constitution of the hoplites' is more important. 
Aristotle implies that many early constitutions assumed 
this form*: the hoplite qualification is the basis of the 
polity as it is most frequently described by him, and he 
refers so often to this form of government that it probably 
had a larger application than we have evidence to prove". 
I have already discussed certain characteristics of this 
form of government: it would probably only admit a 
minority to power, and it seems practically to have been 
based on a property valuation, as hoplite service was usually 
obligatory on all who attained a certain census. Actual 
instances of such a constitution are few. The Draconian 
constitution gave power 'to all who provided themselves 
with a suit of arms*': the oligarchy established at Athens 
in 411 was intended to give power to five thousand, 
selected from those who were 'best able to serve the state 
in person and property'': the government which succeeded 
it was that of a fictitious body of five thousand, really 
composed of all who 'provided themselves with a suit of 
arms'.' The Malians seem to have had a similar quali- 
fication for citizenship'. 

< Pol. vi 13 1297 b 22. 

^ See oh. i § 5 where the information bearing on the polity is collected. 

6 Ar. Aih. Pol. 4 2. 

' Thuc. viii 65 3 ; Ar. Ath. Pol. 29 5. It was, I think, an oligarchy 
of limited number, based on a hoplite census. See Appendix 0. 

* Thuo. viii 97 1 tois ireyTa,Ki.axMoi,s i\j/7]^l<TavTo t& Trpdyfiara TapaSoviiaf 
elvai Se a&ruiv oTriffot Kai oVXa 7rap^x°^'"^*' ■^^* Ath. Pol. 33 1 calls them 
oi TreKTaKio-xiXio' ol ix t(ov Sw\it>i>. The number was a fiction. 

Thucydides praises this constitution and it was the ideal of Thera- 
menes (Xen. Sell, ii 3 48) tA iitivToi aiv tois SwafUvois xal lieS' lirvuv xal 
p.eT d^irlStav tbtpeXeXv dtd, ToiTWv ttjv troXtTeiav irpbadiv &piffTov ijyo'^fiTjv eli/air. 

9 Cf. Aristotle quoted in § 41 n. 25. 


§ 38. Aristocracies and Oligarchies of Fixed Number. 

In some states participation in the active duties of 
citizenship was not made to depend directly on the 
attainment of a certain qualification, but was limited to a 
body of men, fixed in number, who themselves coopted 
others to vacancies on the roll. This is the second form of 
oligarchy described by Aristotle^ There were necessary 
conditions for the membership of these bodies: and any 
of the usual oligarchic qualifications might be required. 
Aristotle in the passage referred to, doubtless having 
certain instances in his mind, assumes that privilege will 
depend on a high assessment, but he corrects this by 
saying that if the choice be made from all the principle is 
aristocratic; if from any definite class, it is oligarchic^. 
The earliest form of such a government was that of the 
Opuntian Locrians, where a body of one thousand held 
supreme powers I have already suggested that The 
Thousand should be connected with the hundred hou^s, 
and we may conclude that The Thousand represented the 

^ Pol. vi 4 1292 b 1 brav airb rifiTif/ATiov fiaKpwv ujatv at dpxat Kal 
alpuvrai airol Tois iWetirovras ; of. ib. 14 1298 a 39. 

2 At. I.e. av ixkv ovv iK Tavruv Toirav (this word seems superfluous) 
TOVTO TTOiiSffi, Soke? tout' efroi fxaXKov 6,pi(TT0KpaTLKbv, iav Si ^k twCiv ci<j)apuj-- 
ixivuv, SXiyapxiKbv. In vii 7 1321 a 30 speaking of Massalia (which had 
such a constitution) and talking of the admission to citizenship, Aristotle 
describes them as Kpiaiv iroiovix^vovs ruiv d^iiov tCiv ^v rep iro\tTe6^aTL Kal 

' 'OiraivTluv x''^iwi' ir\ii6a is mentioned in an inscription (Roberts, 
Epigraphy 231 = 1. G. A. 321), which is referred to about the middle of 
the fifth century, but the constitution was aristocratic and archaic ; and 
the institution probably dated from a very early period. 


noble families of Opus and that high birth and the 
possession of land were necessary qualifications for ad- 
mission to the body^ 

The number of a thousand formed in early times the 
limit in many other states. Constitutions of this number 
can be traced in four of the Western Colonies (and they 
may have existed in many more, as the constitutions of 
the Greek cities in Italy and Sicily tended to assimilate); 
and their origin, I think, should be traced to Opus. Thus 
Locri Epizephyrii, where we hear of The Thousand and 
also of the hundred houses, probably derived its institu- 
tions from its metropolis, and the assembly of The Thou- 
sand may have spread from there to the other states^ 
At Croton we hear of such an assembly*: at Rhegium, 
where Charondas drew up the laws not long after Zaleucus 
had done his work at Locri, there was an assembly of The 
Thousand, chosen on a property qualification and con- 
trolling the whole administration'. At Acragas after the 
overthrow of the tyranny a moderate constitution was 
established and in connexion with it we hear of "the 
gathering of The Thousands' 

' See § 34 above. 

5 Polyb. xii 16 10. Gilbert, Handbuch ii p. 240 n. 2, thinks that the 
assembly was instituted by Zaleuons and that it was timooratio. It is 
far more likely that it was derived from the metropolis, and if so it was 
probably based on birth. 

« lamblioh. De Pyth. vit. 35 260. Val. Max. viii 15 1. Gilbert again 
assumes that this body was timooratio : Grote, iv 324, says that the 
Thousand were chosen from the original settlers. I can find no authority 
for either statement. 

^ Heracl. P. H. G. ii 219 iroXiTeiav 5^ KareffT'^cravTo cipiffTOKpaTLK'qv' 
xOiiOi yb.p TTavra SiOiKOucrtv, aiperol d/irb Ttfi.7jfjtATWv. 

8 Diog. L. viii 2 66. 


At Colophon' and at Cyrne^" we hear of assemblies of 
the same number, while at Heraclea (probably the city of 
that name in the Pontus"), at Syracuse^" and at Massalia^' 
there were assemblies of six hundred in existence. At 
Epidaurns a hundred and eighty men formed the whole 
citizen body". At Athens in the revolutionary oligarchy 
of the Four Hundred a pretence was made of establishing 
a privileged body of five thousand chosen from those who 
had the hoplite qualification"*, while the Thirty limited 
civic rights to three thousand^'. 

This method of admitting men to citizenship seems to 
have commended itself to the Greek mind. Plato makes 
his constitution in the Laws consist of a 'perfect number' 
of citizens". In some cases, and in constitutions other 
than oligarchies, a fiction of a fixed number was main- 
tained. Thus at Aetna Hiero was said to have settled 
ten thousand citizens^'; and at Megalopolis all citizens 
seem to have been admitted to the assembly of the Ten 
Thousand'', while at Athens after the overthrow of the 
oligarchy of Four Hundred, a constitution of hoplites was 

' Athen. xii 526 o quotes Theopompus and Xenophanes. 
'" Heraol. F. H. G. ii 217 Ilpo/iijSeis x''^'"" irapidoiKe rijv iroKiTelav. 

11 Ar. Pol. viii 6 1305 b 11. 

12 Diod. xix 5 (of 336 B.C.). 

13 Strabo iv 179 ; of. Dittenberger, Sylloge 200 42. 

1* Plut. Q, G. 1 Tb TToXtreufxa dySo'fjKOVTa Kal eKarbv riffav. 

1' See Appendix C. 

16 Xen. Hell, ii 3 18 : Ar. Ath. Pol. 36 1. 

1' Laws V 737 E. Plato seems to have had the constitutions of A 
Thousand in his mind more than once. Of. Politicus 292 e iv x'^'-^^^PV 
vbXii : Rep. iv 423 a. 

18 Diod. xi 49. 

I' Harp, defines the /iupioi at Megalopolis as (rvviSpLov Kotviv 'ApKddwv 
airdpToip. Diod. xv 59 thinks a definite number is implied. 


established which bore the name of the Five Thousand, 
although in all probability a larger number were ad- 

We know little about the method in which the actually 
privileged citizens were chosen from the qualified body. 
Aristotle assumes that it will be by cooptation, and the 
assumption implies that the privilege would be held for 
life'''. Id other states the privilege may have gone by 
rotation to all the qualified^^: or the assemblies may at 
stated intervals have been dissolved, either wholly or in 
part, and fresh members appointed. This is implied in 
Aristotle's account of the government at Massalia^. The 
conditions required must usually have included a property 
qualification, but at Massalia we hear of different tests 
being applied^. 

Something should be said about the place that these 
bodies took in the constitution. Their political function 
I discuss below 2^: for the present I wish to note that they 

2» See § 37 n. 8. 

"'■ Election seems to be contemplated from tlie use of the word aiperol 
■which occurs in Ar. and Heraol. 

^^ Such a method was sometimes employed in democracies, Ar. Pol. 
vii 4 1318 b 23 rap Mois SiJ/iots, /cac /ir/ fjierixan Trjs alpiaeas twv ApxHf 
dWd Tixes alperol Karii, p.ipos ix jrdvTuv k.t.X. This principle was asserted 
in the projected constitution of the oligarchs in 411. See Appendix 
n. 53. 

^' Ar. quoted in n. 2. I assume that Aristotle is referring to the 
600 mentioned by Strabo l.c. The only discrepancy is that Strabo refers 
to the 600 (called ri/ioOxoi) holding office for life, whereas Aristotle's 
description implies elections at stated periods, with a sort of competition 
of merit. But the change may have been made after Aristotle's time. 

^ Aristotle's account implies that the qualification was not timo- 
cratic. Strabo l.c, says TifioOxos 5' oi5 Yfcerat fiij T^Kva ^x^^j /^tjS^ Sid. rpi- 
yovias iK iroXiTdv yeyovibs. 

^ See § 47. 


were not, so far as we can judge, mere organs of govern- 
ment: they composed the whole body to whom active 
political duties were allowed in the particular states. 
They were 'the assemblies' and not 'the councils,' and all 
outside the prescribed number, whether rich or poor, noble 
or base born, were equally excluded from privilege^". 

^^ This is implied in the definition of Aristotle as well as in the par- 
ticular descriptions. Thus The Thousand are called at Opus irX-riffa, at 
Acragas adpoiaim ; at Ehegium ' they control all things ' ; at Cyme ■^ 
TToKiTela is entrusted to them. At Heraclea ri d\iyapxia...ils ^fa/cocrlous 
^\6ev. The term avviSpiov which seems to he specially used of these 
bodies (lamblichus, Diodorus and Strabo I.e.) is used elsewhere for the 
assembly of citizens. Diod. xvi. 65 (of Corinth) : Harp. s.v. fivploi. More- 
over a council of 600 or 1000 members would be out of place in an oligarchy. 


Organisation of Oligarchic Government. 

§ 39. General Principles of Oligarchic Government. 

The necessary elements in a government are defined 
by Aristotle to be the deliberative (a term which would 
include both council and assembly), the magisterial and 
the judicial^ Modern theory looks more to the functions 
of government than to those who exercise them, and 
Bluntschli for example enumerates Legislation, Adminis- 
tration, and Judicial power; he explains 'that Aristotle 
calls his first element deliberation, not legislation, because 
legislation proper was not exercised by the popular as- 
semblies until late and only indirectly, while their 
deliberations were important^' Of course legislation was 
not so important in the Greek states as it is in the 

1 Pol. vi 14 1297 b 37 rb pov\ev6fievov: irepl rCov koivud, t& wepl rets 
&px6,%. These are n6pi.a t&v TroXirauv. In vi 4 1291a Aristotle, in enu- 
merating the eight nipia of a city, mentions ri fier^xo" SmatotrivT^s Si- 
KO/TTLKTiSi rb ^ovKevbfievov and rb STjfitovpyiKbv Kal rb irepl rets dpxcis Xetrovp- 
•yoOv. In iv 9 1329 a 3 the elements of government are described more 
vaguely as rb ^ov\ev6fievov irepl tGiv ffvfi<l>€p6vTWV koX Kptvov irepl twv dtKalav 
(of. ib. 1328 a 28 and iii 1 1275 b 18). Thuo. vi 39 opposes /SouXeOo-ai and 

2 Theory of the State (Engl. Trans.), pp. 484—8. 


states of modern Europe, but Aristotle expressly includes 
legislation as one of the functions of the deliberative 
element'. The correction of Aristotle seems to be a 
mistake arising from a difference in the point of view : 
for Aristotle, with the concrete method of thought natural 
to a Greek, looks to the holders of political power and 
not to the duties performed by them, and in the following 
description of oligarchic government I shall follow his 

It is characteristic of an oligarchy that ' some men 
should deliberate about all*,' and from the definition 
of the deliberative element this principle involves the 
corollary that some, i.e. a few men, should have supreme 
power. For ' the deliberative element has authority to 
decide war and peace, to make and dissolve alliance, to 
pass laws, to inflict death, exile and confiscation, to elect 
magistrates and to call them to account^' A body of 
men possessing such authority must have been the 
sovereign power in the state, and I proceed to consider to 
what element in the oligarchic government sovereignty 
was most often entrusted. In the aristocracy the chief 
authority might conceivably be vested in the whole 
body of the nobles, who would form in this way a small 
assembly of the privileged, but it was generally wielded 
by a council of nobles, who might be supposed to repre- 
sent their order. So in the oligarchy proper 'the delibe- 
rative power,' though it might be exercised by a small 

^ ri pov\€v6iievov is both legislative and administrative. Laws and 
law-making are mentioned three times in Pol. vi 14 1298 a. 

4 Ar. Pol. vi 14 1298 a 34. 

5 lb. 1298 a 4. 


assembly of citizens', was generally entrusted to the 
council, the special organ of oligarchic government. 

The executive power in the early aristocracies was 
usually entrusted to a single magistrate, whose powers 
were as unlimited in scope as those of the king had been. 
The division of power among a number of special magis- 
trates was only gradually introduced with the growing 
complexity of political life'. 

The powers both of council and of magistrates were 
in the early constitutions undefined and unrestricted. In 
this respect they recalled the king and the senate of 
the Heroic age ; and we have now to trace the develop- 
ment of the third element in the Heroic state, the 
assembly of the commons. We saw that the commons, 
though they had no definite authority, were called to- 
gether in the agora to listen to the king or the nobles, 
and expressed their approval or dissent in a primitive 
fashion by shouting. The rise of aristocracy tended 
further to reduce the slight importance which they had 
hitherto possessed. The king was by his position raised 
above the nobles and was thus better able to do justice to 
all ; but the people could expect but small consideration 
from rulers, whose claim to political sovereignty was based 
upon social superiority. Hence in many aristocratic states 
the assembly of the commons had to submit to a still 
further restriction of its powers, to be maintained on suffer- 
ance or to be entirely removed from the constitution^ 

" This would be the case in some of the ' ohgarchies of fixed number,' 
for which see § 38. For the special case of the Oligarchy of the Five 
Thousand at Athens see below, Appendix C. 

7 See Gilbert, Handbuch ii p. 323. 

8 For the reduction of the power of the assembly, we may compare 


Oligarchies were unlikely to give a share in the 
constitution to any one outside the circle of the privileged 
few. It is probable that in most oligarchies there was an 
assembly of the qualified citizens, and in some, the poorer 
classes, who were in other respects debarred from exer- 
cising powers of government, were admitted to the 
assembly"; but, however constituted, the powers of the 
assembly were inconsiderable beside those of the council, 
and the oligarchs carried into effect their theory of special- 
isation of authority, of efficiency, secrecy and dispatch by 
delegating the duties of government to small councils or 
to the magistrates. 

§ 40. Powers of Magistrates etc. in Oligarchies. 

'A ruler,' Sir James Stephen has said, 'may be 
regarded as the superior of the subject, as being by 
the nature of his position presumably wise and good; 
or he may be regarded as the agent and servant, and 
the subject as the wise and good master, who is obliged 
to delegate his power to the so-called ruler, because, being 
a multitude, he cannot use it himself Herein we have 
the antithesis of oligarchic and democratic sentiment, 
which may be abundantly confirmed from Greek litera- 

the addition to the pip-pa at Sparta, by means of whioli the ordinary 
citizens lost the Kvpla xal Kpdros, which they had had before (Plut. 
Lye. 6). In the aristocratic state at Athens there is no mention of the 
assembly : all power seems vested in the magistrates or council, and we 
know that the Eupatrids used it oppressively. It is obvious that the 
commons would have no voice in close governments like the Swaareiai. 
" See below, § 47. 


Thus Plato draws almost the same distinction, when 
he says that the people in a democracy call their rulers 
'magistrates' (dpxovres), while in other states they are 
called 'masters' (hecnroTaiy. Demosthenes, whose evidence 
as that of a democratic advocate must be discounted, says 
that the subjects in an oligarchy are ' cravens and slaves^,' 
all must be done sharply at the word of command*, and it 
is a crime to speak evil of the magistrates, however bad 
they be*. It was characteristic of the oligarchic rulers to 
allow no criticism, brook no opposition and demand an 
instant obedience. This is the ground, no doubt, on 
which oligarchies claimed the character of being well 
governed and well ordered^ : I have already called at- 
tention to the strict observance of the law that prevailed 
at Sparta', and, though there may not have been so ready 
a compliance in most oligarchies, the magistrates were 
doubtless swift to punish any insubordination or contempt 
for authority. 

This idea of the competence and rights of government 

1 Plato, Bep. T 463 b. Ar. Pol. iii 4 1279 a 33 and b 8 contrasts apxh 
BecTTOTtK'^ with dpxv iroKtriK'^, 

" xxiv 75. Cf. [Dem. ] Ix 25, fear is a potent motive. 

' xix 185 ii> ixilvais rah TroKirdais tt&vt' i^ ^iriTdyfmTos d(iias ylyverai. 
This is contrasted with democracy in which Itrr' ev \liyois t] irdkiTaa. 

* xxii 82 h> yap tois dXiyapxiais oid' lt,v iSjiv It' 'AndpoHuiiids nxej 
atax^oj^ j3e/3tw/c6Tes, oiix iarL \^eLV KaKus Tois apxovras, 

' eivofila and eira^la. were commonly claimed by the oligarchs. It is 
doubtful whether the philosophers would give them credit for anything 
else than intense and despotic rule. So Ar. Pol. vi 3 1290 a 27 calls 
oligarchic governments nvvTovwripas koL ScaTroTiKwripas. In iv 4 1326 a 
26 he argues that eii>ofiia and eirra^la can scarcely be found in an over- 
populous city, although eira^la is the salvation of an oligarchy (vii 7 
1321 a 3). 

« See § 32 n. 10. 


dominated in the oligarchic constitution, and we can best 
realise it by contrasting it with the democratic theory. 
In the fully developed democracy the people wanted to 
exercise their powers directly, they were jealous of all 
institutions in the state other than the assembly, and 
both council and magistrates were rendered in every 
way subordinate agents of the popular power. The duties 
of government were divided amongst a great number of 
magistrates whose authority was restricted as far as 
possible : the lot secured that ordinary men would be 
chosen (so that it was impossible to leave much to their 
discretion) : their tenure was short, reelection was usually 
forbidden, offices were intended to rotate and all who 
exercised the smallest authority did so with a full re- 
sponsibility to the governing body'. 

In the oligarchies almost every one of these conditions 
is reversed. The functions of government were not so 
thoroughly divided, the magistrates had larger indepen- 
dent powers, they were appointed by and from a small 
privileged body, the same men might be reelected and 
they were most often irresponsible. These points must be 
discussed in detail. 

§ 41. Appointment and Qualification of Magistrates. 

It was characteristic of oligarchy to limit both office 
and the right of electing to office to privileged classes ^ 

' On this characteristic of democracy, especially in so far as it is 
connected with the use of the lot, cf. Mr J. W. Headlam'a Election 
by Lot. 

1 In the exceedingly corrupt passage in Ar. Fol. vi 16 1300 b it is 
clear that ri rivas {KadiffTdpai) ^k tlvuv is oligarchic. 


The electing body might be the same as the class eligible 
for office^ or the candidates might possess a higher qua- 
lification than the electors'. On the other hand in 
oligarchies in which no assembly existed, or in those 
in which the powers of the assembly were altogether 
small and inconsiderable, election was entrusted to the 

Election by vote was the usual method of appoint- 
ment^. Lot was possible in an oligarchy*; it may have 
been sometimes adopted to check the powers of great 
families or cliques, but its use was probably rare: for 
the oligarch did not believe, as the democrat tended to 
believe, that all men were equally qualified far. political 
duties. The lot was supposed to result in the appoint- 

^ At Sparta the Ephors ylvovrai iK toO SrntokriraiiTb^ (Ar. Pol. ii 9 
1270 b 8), the yipoi/res from the KaXol Kiyadol. The KbaiioL at Crete were 
appointed iK tivuv yevwv (ii 10 1272 a 34). 

' Cf. Ar. PoL viii 6 1305 b 30 ii^ oVais dXiyapxI-cu^ oOx oSroi alpovvrat 
rhs dpxci'S i^ ^v ol dpxovris eltnv, dW al fj,h dpxal iK TtfnjfidTWp /xeydXtav 
clalv rj iraipLuVj aipovvraL 5' ol otXIthl ^ 6 fi^yxos, i.e. the power of election 
was entrusted to an assembly of hoplites, or presumably of the classes 
otherwise excluded from the government. Cf. also the passages in n. 2 
and vi 15 1300 a 15 quoted in n. 14 below, and 1300 b 4. 

* The Council of the Areopagus, according to Ar. Ath. Pol. 8 2, 
originally had power of election, and in the revolutionary governments at 
Athens the Council of the Pour Hundred was to have power to appoint 
magistrates {ib. 30 2; 31 2), and the Thirty did so (35 1). 

5 Ar. Pol. vi 9 1294 b 8 Soke? SriiJ.oKpaTi.Kbv fjtiv elvai, KXripards elcot rets 
dpxds, tA 5' aiperds dXiyapx^Kdv. 

^ Ib. vi 15 1300 b ad in. Cf. also Anaximenes Rhetor quoted by 
Gilbert, Handbtich ii p. 319 n. 1, irepl di tos 6\iyapxtai rds ii.iv dpxl^s 
Sei Tovs vbjiovs dTovifietv i^ iffov waai rots ttjs TroXiTdas fierixovfrL, toOtuv 
di etvai rets fiiv TrXefcrras KkqptaTds^ rh^ 5e fjieyi(rTas KpvirTQ ^7i(p(p p.G6' opKwv 
Kal irKda-Tris dKpt^elas Sia\l/T}ipi.a-Tds. This is rather an ideal scheme than a 
generalisation of experience. 

W. 10 


ment of the ' average ' man', and the oligarch did not, any 
more than the philosopher', believe in the political 
capacity of the ' average ' man. The method of appoint- 
ment by acclamation which prevailed at Sparta and 
possibly at Crete was a ' puerile ' method" in the opinion 
of Aristotle and little better than the lot". In some 
cases there was a double process of election", or a com- 
bination of lot and election'", and more rarely perhaps 

' Ar. AtK Pol. 27 5 Kk'qpovixiviav iirt^eKQs del fji,5XKov rCjv TVxitvTfjiv 
TJ t£>v iineiKuv cuiBpilnruv : Xen. Mem. iii 9 10 election by ol rvxivres or 
the lot are classed together. 

^ Besides the passages in the preceding note, of. Ar. Pol. ii 8 1269 a 5 
(primitive man was like ol Tux^KTes and oi dxiijToi); viii 8 1308 a 34 (6 
Tu^wv opposed to 6 iroXiTiKlis avfip) : viii 8 1309 a 9. 

' Plut. Lye. 26 describes the election of yipoyres at Sparta ^oy ykp ihs 
TokXa Kal Toi)s d/aiXXw^^xous iKpivov. This is justly described as ircuda- 
pi.<!id7is in Ar. Pol. ii 9 1271a 10, and as the election of the ephors is 
described in the same terms (ii 9 1270 b 28), we may infer that the same 
method was adopted. 

1° Ar. in the passage last quoted says ol rvxivres were appointed 
ephors. So Plato, Laws iii 692 a, describes the power of the Ephors as 
iyyiis T^s kXjjpwt^s Swd/uews. The Cosmi at Crete are compared to the 
Ephors in terms which may apply to the method of election: ylvovrai 
yap oi TVx6vTes (ii 10 1272 a 30). 

^1 In criticising the appointment of magistrates in Plato's Laws 
Aristotle {Pol. ii 6 1266 a 26) describes it as rb ^f alpeT&v aiperois. The 
appointment of generals and other army officers is conducted in this 
way (Laws vi 755) but most of the magistrates are appointed by a combi- 
nation of lot and election. The constitution of the Four Hundred at 
Athens involved a double election of magistrates (see Appendix C). The 
Council of 500 under the Thirty was similarly appointed (Ar. Ath. Pol. 
35 1). 

^2 The principle is stated to be common to oligarchy and democracy 
(Ar. Pol. ii 6 1266 a 9). Under the Solonian constitution the magistrates 
were KKrjpurol iK irpoKpiTat (Ar. Ath. Pol. 8 1). 

13 Ar. Pol. ii 11 1273 a 13 (of Carthage), and it is defined as 


Passing to qualification for office, it was natural in 
oligarchies, in which the citizenship was at all extended, 
to require special conditions in the candidates for the 
different magistracies". In some aristocracies special 
families were privileged above the rest^*; and in oli- 
garchies property and age were often made conditions 
for office. In the constitution attributed to Draco we 
find a special property qualification : while Solon (whose 
reforms in many respects were democratic in tendency) 
introduced an elaborate gradation of privilege". We may 
assume that there were similar provisions in many oli- 

In some states the same object was attained indirectly 
by imposing conditions which would make a poor man 
loath to undertake office, or by debarring a rich man 
from renouncing an office to which he had been ap- 
pointed^'. This principle was applied to every exercise 
of political activity, and Aristotle describes it as an oli- 
garchic device to impose a fine on the rich for not 

oligarchic, t& t&s TevTapxlas...iiij>' ain-Qv aiper&s ehai.. The process by 
which the Four Hundred were chosen described in Thuc. viii 67 3 is a 
sort of cooptation. 

" See Ar. quoted in n. 3 and cf. Pol. vi 15 1300 a 15 KadurTouriv . . .iK 
Tivuv i<pwpiffiiivwi', otov ij Ti/ii^/iOTt ^ 7^1'ei ij rm Toioirif oKKtp. 

'6 See n. 2. 

IS Ar. Ath. Pol. 4 2; 7 3 (of Solon) iK&<jroLt d^/dAo^ov T<f /ieyiBei toO 
Tifi'/jfiaTos AirodtSois tt)v &px^v. 

1' Cf. Ar. Pol. vii 6 1320 b 22 in a moderate oligarchy Set rd, Ti.ij.i- 
fmra Siaipeiv, ri fih iXirrw rd di yucfju TroiovnTas, AdrTU /liv d<p' av tuv 
Ava-fKaluv iie$4^ov(riv dpxu", fiel^a S' d0' wv tQi> Kvpiwripiav. Cf. Plato 
Laws V 744 c. 

18 Cf. Ar. Pol. ii 6 1266 a 9 t4 5^ rots /iiv ei-ropaTipoK iirivayKes iKK\q- 
(n&^eai eXvai, koX <j>ipei.v ApxavTas ij n iroiSv &\\o Twv ttoXitikuv, toi>s 6' 
d^eiffSoi, TOVTO S' SKvyapx'^Kbv . 



attending the assembly or for not acting as judges^'. 
Instances in which this principle is enforced are to be 
found in the constitution attributed to Draco by Aristotle 
and in the projected oligarchy at Athens^". Pay for 
public services on the other hand was a democratic insti- 
tution^^ and was rarely found in oligarchies^^ On the 
contrary it was oligarchic for the highest offices to involve 
such a burden of expense that the poor might be unwill- 
ing to hold them^. 

It was usual in all states, whether oligarchic or demo- 
cratic, to set a higher limit of age for the exercise of 
official power than for the ordinary duties of citizen- 
ship ; but the principle was carried further in oligarchies 
than in democracies. ' In an early stage of society age 
implies rule and rule implies age^'; and in the councils 
of the oligarchies (which were usually survivals from the 
aristocratic constitutions) old age was very often a neces- 
sary qualification, while in many the senators held office 
for life^^ so that there was bound to be a preponderance of 
old men. 

Specific instances of advanced age as a condition of 
office are not frequent''^ The magistrates appointed at 

19 Ar. Pol. ¥i 13 1297 a 16; ef. Plato Laws vi 764 a. 

2» Ar. Ath. Pol. 4 3; 30 6. 

21 Ar. Pol. Ti 13 1297 a 36. 

^ The constitution of the Four Hundred maintained pay for the 
arohons and irpvTavus (Ar. Ath. Pol. 29 5) but the government was an 
oligarchy disguised as a democracy. 

23 Ar. Pol. vii 7 1321 a 31. 

2* Freeman, Comparative Politics p. 72. 

25 See below, § 44, and of. the title yepovala applied to many of the old 

28 Except for the constitutions considered in § 34 no certain instance 


Athens after the Sicilian expedition to be a check upon 
the democracy were a board of old men", and at Chalcis 
an age of at least fifty was required for the magistrates'^. 

§ 42. Tenure and Responsibility of Magistrates. 

From the general conception of government formed by 
the oligarchs we should naturally expect them to grant a 
longer tenure of power to their magistrates than was usual 
in democracies^ and to allow them to hold their office 
more than once. As specific instances we may cite those 
constitutions in which hereditary kings survived, for these 
formed ' life magistracies^ ' : and the gradual transition 

can be quoted in which a mature age was a necessary condition of citizen- 
ship. In Ar. Pol. vi 13 1297 b 14 hi MaXieOo-i Sk ij fi.^v TroXireia rjv ix 
ToijTdjif (tw;' oJTrXtTeu/cirwz'), tcls S' dpxas ripovvTO iK tQv ffTparevofi^vwv it is 
doubtful whether oi (lnr\iTevK6Tes denotes those who are ahready released 
from service or is meant to include also ol oTrXtreiJoxTes. In Plato's 
Republic (vii 740 a) the guardians were not to be admitted to rule until 
their fiftieth year, and in Aristotle's ideal state the younger men were to 
be excluded from deliberative (i.e. political) power {Pol. iv 9 1329 a 13 ; 
14 1332 b 35), and it is probable that some states actually had similar 
provisions. The constitution of Draco (Ar. Ath. Pol. 4) indirectly made 
a mature age a qualification for the crparrp/la. 

^ Thuc. viii 1. 

28 Heraclides F. H. G. ii 222 vbiws di fiv XaXnSeOa-i /it) apfai in)5i 
irpeff^evffai veihrepov irdv TevTTjKovTa. (I do not know whether Trpea^evffaL 
could mean be a senator, but its ordinary sense does not seem suitable 
here.) It is difficult to believe that aU magistrates (e.g. military officers) 
had to be over 50. 

1 Ar. Pol. ii 11 1273 a 15 a long tenure of office is defined as 
oligarchic. Of. also viii 8 1308 a 24. 

" Ar. Pol. iii 15 1287 a 5 describes kingship as arparTiyia AlSios. It is 
possible that the chief magistrates of Opus and of Epidamnus (mentioned 
in this place) held office for life, but the passage is capable of another 


from a life tenure to ten years and then to one year can 
be traced in the case of the supreme magistrates at 
Athens: but after the completion of constitutional de- 
velopment, even in oligarchies, we know no instances of 
office conferred for more than a year, except in the case of 
the council, the members of which often sat for life. 

The idea of the responsibility of the magistrates which 
is characteristic of democracy was never enforced to the 
same degree in oligarchies. The oligarchic conception of 
official power required that the magistrate should not be 
liable to be called to account by the ordinary citizens : 
the authority of government would have been impaired 
had the magistrates been brought into collision with any 
board of revision and audit. At the same time the success 
of an oligarchy depended so absolutely on the intimate 
cooperation of magistrates and council, that a magistrate 
would be extremely unlikely to act against the authority 
of the council : and the council, composed as it usually 
was of past magistrates, would, from the age and ex- 
perience of its members, be able to make its advice 
equivalent to command and its censure to condemnation. 
Hence the indefinite powers entrusted to the aristocratic 
and oligarchic councils often included, no doubt, the 
power to control the magistrates, to see that they did not 
transgress the laws and to call them to account in case 
they offended^. 

Sparta, whose constitution differed in most respects 
from that of other states, left the supervision of all other 

3 It is recorded of the council of the Areopagus that they had to keep 
the magistrates within the written laws (Ar. Ath. Pol. 4 4: in § 2 of 
this chapter, which contains so many difficulties, eWvvai. are mentioned 
without a hint as to how they were conducted). Solon gave the power 


magistrates to the Ephors^ In states in which stress was 
laid on the strict observance of the law the nomophylaces 
may have had the duty of seeiag that the magistrates did 
not transgress the law and so have formed a board of 
control over them^ But in most states the magistrate 
was left a large amount of freedom. They acted on their 
own discretion and were not bound by written rules': 
while oligarchies would be more inclined than democracies 
to entrust single magistrates or small boards of magis- 
trates with absolute and omnipotent authority'. The 
powers of the Ephors and the Cosmi are well known, and 
another significant instance is afiforded by the oligarchic 
constitution at Athens in 411. Under the provisional 
government the ten generals were to have absolute power 
and only to consult with the council at their discretion^ 

of calling the magistrates to account to the people, but the Areopagus 
remained the guardian of the laws (Ar. Ath. Pol. 8 4 it was MaKoiros 
TTJs iroXiTeias entrusted with rb vo/iixpuXaKelv) and so must have had some 
control over the magistrates. The council of the Four Hundred at 
Athens was to have power irepl tuv eiBvvSv (Ar. Ath. Pol. 31 1). Cf. 
Plut. Q.G. 2 on the 'nocturnal council' at Crete. The councils them- 
selves were usually irresponsible. 

^ Pol. ii 9 1271 a 6. From Ar. Bhet. iii 18 1419 b 31 and Plut. Agis 
12, Gilbert, Handbuch i^ p. 59 n. 1, concludes that the Ephors were 
responsible and had to render an account to their successors. 

= See below, § 43. 

^ Ar. Pol. ii 9 1270 b 29 says that the Ephors at Sparta decided 
aOToyvtji)fj.oves and not Kara 7pd/tjuara Kal Toifs vdfutvs. Cf . ib. 10 1272 a 38. 

' Cf. Theophr. Gharact. 8 ; the oligarchic man is wont to say, 
when the appointment of magistrates is discussed, ibs 5« aiTOKpdropas 
TO&rovs eTvai. 

8 Ar. Ath. Pol. 31 2. 


§ 43. Single Magistrates and Boards of Magistrates. 

The oldest type of aristocratic govermnent is that 
represented by the rule of the Bacchiadae at Corinth, in 
which the clan of that name formed a council of govern- 
ment, jointly controlling the state and appointing every 
year one of their number with the position and powers of 
the former king^ We need not suppose that he was the 
only magistrate^ but in dignity he was the chief and he 
doubtless held the chief administrative power. Gradually 
in most states political functions were divided; military 
command was separated from civil administration, which 
was shared by a number of magistrates ; but many oli- 
garchies still kept one man at the head of the constitu- 
tion^ and entrusted him with the chief control of the 
administration, while democracies tended to divide power, 
to suspect the holders of it and therefore to create several 
boards of magistrates. Single magistrates, who are de- 
scribed as supreme in the administration, were appointed 
at Opus and at Epidamnus*, in the different Elean com- 

^ Diod. vii fr. ol 8K..'BaKxi-5ai....KaT4(Txov tt}v apxh^ Kal Koivy fxkv 
TrpoeuTT-fiKeaav ttjs iriKews aTracres, i^ airCiv Si ha Kar' hiavriv -gpoviiTO 
TrpiravLVj 6s tt}v tov ^atrtX^ws e?Xf t6.^iv. 

^ Nicol. Dam. F. H. G. iii 392 implies that there was a TroKip.apxos : if 
so the TrpvTavi.s was not commander in chief. 

3 Ar. Pol. viii 1 1301 b 25 SKiyapxi-Kiv de Kal & dpxiav d ets (of 

^ Ar. Pol. iii 16 1287 a 6 ttoWoI iroLoCinv '4va KipLov ttjs Sioi/cijtrews • 
TOtaini yap apxh ns ^(Tti Kal irepl ''ETrtda/xvov Kal irepl 'Offowra. In Locris 
we may perhaps identify this magistrate with the dpxis mentioned in 
I.G.A. 821 41 (Roberts Epigraphy 231, Hicks Manual 63). From the 
passage of Aristotle quoted in n. 3 we might conclude that the magis- 
trate at Epidamnus was called apxav. Gilbert, Handbueh ii p. 237 n., 
suggests that he was called diotKrjrds. 


jnunities" and at Locri in Italy«. In most Greek states 
there was one magistrate, who was formally at the head 
of affairs', but apart from these merely titular chiefs we 
may distinguish the irpvravi^ as a magistrate found with 
especial frequency in oligarchies^ 

Single magistrates of this sort were entrusted with 
large powers ; but a small board of magistrates, if acting 
in concord, must have possessed still more authority. 
The best examples of such boards are furnished by the 
Ephors at Sparta and the Cosmi at Crete. The Ephors 
enjoyed a high prestige', and the Gosmi (who are often 
compared to the Ephors) had also the command in war". 
Ephors were also to be found in the Dorian colonies of 
Tarentum, Heraclea in Italy, Thera and Gyrene". 

In Western Locris the damiorgi were the chief magis- 

5 Cauer Delectus^ 112, Eoberts Epigraphy 292 op fiiyccrrov tAos ?x" is 
used to describe the different magistrates in the different towns (wlio 
probably had different titles). 

^ Ko<rfi6To\ts Polyb. xii 16. 

' Of eponymous magistrates without real power we may eite the apx'^" 
in Boeotia, the paa-iXeis in Megara. 

8 Besides Corinth cf. Miletus (toWQv ykp riv koX p.ey6.\!iiv Kipios o 
irp&rayis Ar. Pol. viii 5 1305 a 16); Tenedos (Find. Nem. xi 1): Mitylene 
(Cauer Delectus^ 472 20); Croton (Athen. xii 522 a — n). 

' Ar. Pol. ii 9 1270 b 7 ^ opX') t^pf" M^'' airii tQ>v /ieylarwv airois iffrlv. 
He calls it X/ok /xeydXri Kal Ifforipavvos. Cf. Plut. Ages. 4. 

10 Ar. Pol. ii 10 1272 a 9. 

" Inscriptions prove the existence of ephors at a comparatively late 
period in Thera and Heraclea; but as all these colonies had direct or 
indirect connexion with Sparta we may assume that the ephorate was 
an early institution. For Thera cf. Cauer Delectus^ 148 1: Cyrene 
Heraclides F. H. G. ii 212; Heraclea Cauer 40 1 (of about 400 b.o.), and 
as Heraclea was a colony of Tarentum we may assume that this magis- 
tracy existed also in the metropolis. 


trates^^ : magistrates with this title held the chief execu- 
tive power in many states". At Athens, in the early 
constitution the gradual division of the king's powers can 
be traced, while in the oligarchy of the Four Hundred the 
chief authority was entrusted to a board of ten, and in 
404 B.C. the Thirty seem to have directed the administra- 
tion themselves. 

Massalia shows us an artificial constitution, with a 
gradual devolution of power. From the assembly of Six 
Hundred, fifteen men were chosen to administer current 
affairs ; from the fifteen three presidents were elected and 
: from the three one man to have supreme power in the 
state". This system of ensuring that the magistrates 
should be members of the assembly produced a well- 
ordered government, which lasted for centuries. A similar 
attempt to introduce unity into the administration was 
made by the Four Hundred at Athens ; for in the pro- 
jected constitution all the magistrates were to be chosen 
out of the council ^^ 

There were certain magistracies connected with special 
constitutions. One class of these was entrusted with 
censorial duties, with the supervision of women and 
children and the control of the gymnasia: such magis- 
trates Aristotle describes as aristocratic and not oligar- 
chic'". In a luxurious oligarchy, he says, a magistracy 

1= Roberts Epigraphy 232 and 233 (I. G. A. 322 and 328). 

^ For instances see Gilbert Handbuch ii p. 327. 

" Strabo iv 179. 

15 Ar. Ath. Pol. 30 2. See Appendix C. 

1" In vii 8 1322 b 37 tSiai Se rait (rxo^a-ffTiKUTipais Kal /iS^^ol' eirmepai- 
cats irdXecrLVi ^tl de <^povTL^oiuais edKOCffiias, yuvcLiKovofiict, vofio<pvXaKiaf 
irai.Soi', yv/ivainapx!-a- Tbe states that 'care for good order' naturally 
maintain the censorship. 


of this sort would not be possible^'; but the old-fashioned 
aristocracies claimed to exercise a rigid control over their 
members. The Spartan system involved the interference 
of the state with every detail of private life, although it 
did not succeed in chastening the women, and their con- 
duct Aristotle regards as one of the great defects of the 
state ^^. 

Of political magistrates the probuli are described as 
oligarchic ; the nomophy laces as aristocratic, while both 
are contrasted with the large council of the democracies^'. 
The probuli were most often a division or committee of 
the council, and this magistracy will therefore be con- 
sidered in the next section. 

The nomophylaces on the other hand, though men- 
tioned in connexion with the council and the probuli, seem 
to have formed an independent board of magistrates™. 
They were entrusted with discretionary powers to see 
that the laws were duly observed, and they were thus 
able to exercise a sort of censorship over the private life 
of the citizens. We may suppose that their powers were 
very similar to those of the council of the Areopagus, 
which is described as being the guardian of the laws. 
They were especially natural in a state, whose constitu- 
tion depended on the observance of fixed ordinances ; and 
their duties in this connexion were to take care that the 
laws were duly obeyed, to see that no proposal in conflict 

" Ai. PoJ. vilS 1300 a 4. 

18 Ar. Pol. ii 9 1269 b. !» Ar. Pol. vii 8 1323 a b. 

'" This is stated of the vofi,o(p>i\aKes at Athens: see n. 24. In some 
instances these magistrates may have been able to veto proposals made 
in the assembly, and thus to exercise a function usually reserved to the 


■with them should be made and to guard the state 
archives, in order that proper records might be kept^\ 

Such magistrates were appointed in Abdera, Chalce- 
don, Mylasa, and Corcyra, and with slightly different 
titles in Andania, Elis and Thespiae^^. 

To the thesmothetae . at Athens at the date of their 
institution Aristotle assigns duties very similar to those 
ascribed to the nomophylaces^', and in the reform of the 
Athenian democracy at the end of the fourth century 
seven nomophylaces were instituted as a check upon the 
democracy^. Other magistrates who performed some of 
the duties usually ascribed to the nomophylaces were the 
registrars, who had the custody of private contracts and 
of public documents, but these do not seem to have been 
a specially oligarchic institution^. 

21 The best general description of their duties is in Xen. Oec. 9 14 
eSidaaKov 5^ avT^v otl Kai iv tols e^ofxovfxhaiz TrbXeaiv oOk dpKeXv Sokgl rots 
TToKlraLs 7Jv vb^ovs /caXoi)s ypdipuvrat, dXXa Kal vofj.o(pv\aKas 7rpo(raipoO*'Tai, 
otrives iiTLcrKoirovvTes rbv /x^v Troiovvra rd vofjiLfw, iiraivoOaiv, 7]v d^ rts iraph 
Toirs voixovs iroLTJ ^rjfxiovai. Cf. Plato Laws vi 754 1> (of the vofio^i!/\aK€S in 
his constitution) irpCorov f^v 0i)Xa/cej '4{nti)(yav twv v6^it}v, ^iretra t(ov 
ypafifidruv wv dV ^/cacros cLiroypdipT} rots dpxovffi rd irXridos t^s avrwv ovalas^ 
(Their duties in other respects seem more extensive than those of this 
magistracy in general.) Cf. Cic. de Leg. iii 20 46. See also the descrip- 
tion of these magistrates at Athens in n. 24. 

22 For these see Gilbert Handbuch ii p. 338 n. 1. 

23 Ar. Ath. Pol. 3 4. 

2^ Their duties are stated in Lex. Rhetor. Cantab. 674 tAs S^ ipxas 
■qv&yKa^ov ToJs vofioii XPV"'^'"- ""'^ ^'' '^V ^kkXt/itiV k"' ^o Ty ^ovXrj /ierd, tUv 
irpo^8pojv iKo.O'qvro KiaXvovres to. dffufj.tpopa t^ 7r6Xet TrpdrreLv' itrrd 5^ TJffav 
Kal KaT^(TT7](rav, ois ^Lhdxopos ore 'E^tdXr?;? pLOi^a KaT^Xitre rrj i^ *Apeiov 
irdyov iSouXij rd irepl toS aii/iaros. It has been thought that the last 
statement is mistaken, as there is no trace of the existence of this 
magistracy before the reforms of Demetrius. 

25 Ar. Pol. Tii 8 1321 b 34. 


§ 44. Constitution of the Council. 

Generally speaking the council formed the most im- 
portant element in the oligarchical constitution. In the 
times of the Heroic Monarchy and of the Aristocracy it 
acted as the representative of the nobles, and in the 
constitution of the later oligarchies it continued to re- 
present the privileged body. It was the sovereign power 
in the state as the assembly was in the democracy, and 
where the one institution was powerful, the other was 
bound to be subordinated But the oligarchic council 
differed from the democratic council not only in power 
and importance, but in size and constitution. The demo- 
. cratic assembly was obliged to delegate some of its powers 
to a council, but in order to minimise the power of the 
individual members a large number of citizens was ad- 
mitted to it, usually appointed by lot, and the large 
council was regarded as essentially democratic^. 

The oligarchic council, on the other hand, was composed 

I of a small number of members, which even in the most 

i populous states rarely exceeded one hundred. At Sparta, 

I there were thirty, at Cnidus sixty, at Corinth^ eighty, in 

Elis ninety; and in the Areopagus, which was made up 

of ex-archons sitting for life, it has been calculated that 

' Ar. Pol. vi 15 1299 b 38 (caraXiierai Si Kal ttjs /SouX^s ri S6va/iis h rats 
TOLa^Tats Srj^ioKpaTiais iv als aiirfis tructwj' 6 dij^os xP'7y"tir£f'et irepl wdyruv. 
The converse is true of oligarchy. Cf. J. W. Headlam Election by 
Lot, p. 42 'It would be equally correct if we substituted for the Greek 
words 'Eule of the Many,' 'Eule of the Few' the expressions 'Eule by 
the Assembly,' 'Rule by the Council.' 

2 Ar. Pol. vii 8 1323 a 6. 

3 For Corinth see § 46 n. 2. 


there would be not more than ninety members at a time^ 
In the few instances in which larger councils occur in 
oligarchies, we may assume that they practically took the 
place of the assembly, and that no more numerous body 
was entrusted with real power. Thus in the oligarchic 
revolution at Athens in 411, the Five Thousand were 
practically excluded from the government, while in the 
projected constitution, the acting council was apparently 
intended to be formed of one fourth part of the whole 
body of the citizens ^ In the later oligarchy the Thirty 
nominated a council of Five Hundred, but this was 
the most numerous body in the constitution, and the 
Thirty themselves probably acted as a councils In the 
oligarchies of fixed number, in which the Assembly was 
not so large as to preclude discussion, the council would 
not be so indispensable, and this may explain why we 
do not find it so much in evidence in these constitutions'. 
I proceed to discuss the method of appointing mem- 
bers of the council. In primitive times when govern- 
ment was of the patriarchal type the chiefs were probably 
convoked by the king to advise him'. When sovereignty 

^ Hermann Lehrbuch der Staatsaltertumer^, p. 388 n. 6, where Titt- 
mann is quoted. 

^ In the provisional constitution the Four Hundred acted as the 
supreme authority. For the projected constitution see Ar. Ath. Pol. 30 3 
and Appendix C below. 

^ Ar. Ath. Pol. 35 1. The 'Three Thousand' seem never to have 
had any power. 

' Dioaearch. F. H.G. ii 244 mentions ri ruv yepbvrwv opxe'"" at Croton : 
at Locri we find the x'X'oi performing functions that usually belonged to 
an oligarchic council. At Massaha 15 irpoecrTuTes were chosen from the 
avviSptov, who probably formed a sort of council, Strabo v 179. 

8 There is not, so far as I know, any evidence as to the method by 
which the council was selected in the heroic constitution. 


passed from the king to the chiefs, the council either 
included all the nobles of a certain age or it was formed 
from the heads of the clans whose union made the stated 
In later times some principle of selection had to be 
applied. At Sparta", in Elis" and at Cnidus'^ the senators 
were elected from certain privileged classes or families; 
in Epidaurus sixty of the hundred and eighty citizens 
were constituted a council^^ In Athens" and Crete^' the 
chief magistrates were admitted to the council after their 
term of office. We have not sufficient information as to 
the constitution of the councils in ordinary oligarchies, 
but we may infer that the highest qualifications required 
for the magistracies were also exacted in the case of the 
senators and that the most careful process of election was 
usually enforced '^ But the senators differed from the 

" The title of the senators at Epidamnus ^iXapxoi may point to a 
system in which the <j>v\al and their subdivisions were represented : it is 
possible that the Spartan yepotnrla may have been originally representa- 
tive of the thirty obes. In many states the numbers of the senators 
suggest a connexion with the ^vXai, and originally the smaller divisions 
may have been represented. 

i» Ar. Pol. a 9 1270 b 24. 

" Ar. Pol. viii 6 1306 a 18 says the aipeats was dwaffTeunKr/ (I take 
this to mean from certain families), and he compares it to the Spartan 

'2 Plut. Q.G. i TrpiKpiToi i| ipiaruv. It is doubtful whether the xaXoi 
K&yaSol of Sparta and the ftpioroi of Cnidus refer to certain privileged 
families or merely to the claims of wealth and education. For Sparta 
see § 32 n. 7. 

13 Plut. Q.G. 1. 

" Ar. Ath. Pol. 3 6; Plut. Sol. 19. 

1^ Ar. Pol. ii 10 1272 a 34 {alpovi'Tai...Tovs y^povras iK ruv KeKoa-fiTjKd- 
Tuv) and Strabo x 484 both imply some principle of selection applied to 
the ex-oosmi. 

16 From the few instances of which we have definite information it is 


magistrates inasmuch as a higher limit of age was usually 

necessar}'^' and in many cases they were appointed for 
life '8. 

The commonest title used to describe the senate in 
an oligarchy was yepovata, though ^ovK-q was also found ; 
and in constitutions in which the old oligarchic senate was 
preserved side by side with a democratic council, they were 
sometimes distinguished by the titles of yepovcrla and 
/3oi/Xj;''. The senators were often called yepovTe<;, but 
many other titles were used. to describe them in different 
states, and we hear of the ^a/jLioopjol in Elis^", the 
rifiov'xoL at Teos^', the dprvvoi at Epidaurus"^, the 
ap.v^/j.ove'i at Cnidus^', the (pvXapxoi at Epidamnus^. 

The oligarchic council was then, as a general rule, 
composed of a comparatively small number of men, who 
fulfilled the highest conditions in respect to birth and 

clear that the conditions for election to the council were more stringent 
than for the election of magistrates. 

1' At Sparta an age of at least sixty years was required (Plut. Lye. 26), 
and the frequent application of the title of ydpovres to the senators, of 
yepovala to the senate, points to a high limit of age being necessary else- 

^8 Examples of life senates are the councils at Sparta, in Crete, Elis, 
Cnidus (Plut. Q. G. 4) and the council of the Areopagus at Athens. 

^ Ephesus, Strabo xiv 640, Dittenberger Sylloge 134. At Crete the 
senators were called ■yipovres (they are so described by Aristotle), the 
senate ^uXd (Cauer Delectus^ 121"). 

2° Gilbert, Handbueh ii p. 101, thinks the tl'a/j.i.upyol were the senators 
of the separate states, and that they united to form the ^a/j.i.apyla of the 
united state (mentioned in Cauer Delectus^ 257). 

21 Dittenberger Sylloge 234 18. 

22 Plut. Q. G. 1. 

23 Plut. Q. G. 4. 

24 Ar. Fol. viii 1 1301 b 22. 


wealth, who had usually held the most important magis- 
tracies, and who, in many cases, were appointed for life. 

§ 45. Powers of the Council. 

The members of the oligarchic council thus enjoyed 
the highest political privilege in their states, and the 
council could not fail to be imbued with an exclusive and 
aristocratic spirit. Its authority was great. The indi- 
vidual magistrate, holding a temporary office, usually 
without experience of its duties, was expected to seek and 
to follow advice from a council, composed of ex-magis- 
1 trates, irresponsible and deciding on their own discretion, 
\ which often formed the only permanent organ of the con- 
stitution. Such an institution, whatever the theoretical 
division of political power may have been, was inevitably 
obliged to rule the policy of the state : the magistrates 
acted under its direction and thus became in a sense its 
responsible ministers. 

Its powers could not be defined, for the very reason 
that they were unlimited': there was probably no branch 
of the administration in which it had not sovereign 
authority, and even where the assembly possessed any 
importance, the council decided what business was to be 
brought before it and so exercised a veto on its proceed- 

1 This point ia brought out by Mr J. W. Headlam in an article on 
The Council at Athens (Classical Review, vi p. 296). ' The natural con- 
clusion is that the Council (of the Areopagus in early times) never had 
any definite and limited duties. The arohons were executive; the council 
superintended, directed and if necessary punished them.' 

" Even in democracies the council was 'probouleutio': and this part 

W. 11 


Hence we find the vaguest descriptions of the compe- 
tence of the senate in oligarchies. The Council of the 
Areopagus ' administered most of the greatest things'' 
and was 'the guardian of the stated' At Cnidus the 
senators were ' guardians and counsellors in the greatest 
matters^'; at Crete the elders were 'irresponsible and 
absolute"' and 'advisers in the greatest matters',' while 
at Sparta, although the Ephors attained a power that 
was almost tyrannical, they only held oflfice for a year and 
the senate was said to ' rule over all things ' and to be 
' sovereign in affairs of stated' 

These instances are sufficient to show that the com- 
petence of the oligarchic council eludes definition. It 
was the sovereign body, the chief ' deliberative ' element', 
just as the assembly was in the democracy : and the other 
elements in the state, whether assembly or magistrates, 
exercised their powers in subordination to the council. 

Its judicial duties will be discussed below. 

of its duties must have been of more real importance in oligarchies. See 
below § 46. 

2 At. Ath. Pol. 3 6; 44. 

4 lb. 8 4. 

^ ^'jria'KoiroL...Kal 7rp6^ov\oi twv fieyiffrcov Plut. Q. G, 4. 

« Ar. Pol. ii 10 1272 a 36. 

' Strabo xiv 480. 

^ Isocr. xii 154; Polyb. vi 45 5 Si' wy xal /leff' iav tt&vto. x^i-p^t^Tcu to, 
Kari, TTjv TToKa-dav; Dionys. Hal. ii 14 ^ yepovcrla irav elxe twv koivSv rb 
KpdTos. Plut. Ages. 4 represents rb Kparos as shared between the senate 
and the ephors: and in the fourth century the ephors undoubtedly 
gained authority at the expense of the senate. 

^ Of. the definition of the deliberative element in Ar. Pol. vi 14 
1298 a 4. Some of the powers mentioned there were formally exercised 
by the assembly in some oHgarchies. 


§ 46. Subdivisions of the Council. 

In discussing the constitution of the oligarchic council 
I have laid stress on the small number of members which 
it usually included. But there was usually, also, a much 
smaller committee, chosen generally from the council, on 
which considerable power was conferred. This committee 
was entrusted with the duty of the preliminary considera- 

ution of measures before they came before the council or 
the assembly, the duty of preparing motions and drawing 

I up proposals : and hence they sometimes bore the name 
of irpo^ovKoi^, a magistracy which Aristotle describes as 

I especially oligarchic. In democracies these duties were 
generally performed by the council, but even in democracies, 
the council was often divided into committees in order to 
transact current business and to control meetings of the 
council or the assembly. But while in a democracy each 
committee was appointed for a very brief period and given 

^ It is usually assumed that the irpb^ov\oi denote a small board of 
magistrates, often a subdivision of the /SouX^ itself. I think the term 
was applied vaguely to the small oligarchic councils as well. Thus Ar. 
Pol. vi 14 1298 b 26 describes irpipcvKoi. as an 6,pxSov in oligarchies 
entrusted with probouleutic duties, arranging all questions to be sub- 
mitted to the people (there is no mention of any other kind of jSouXiJ) : of. 
ih. 15 1299 b 33 all constitutions must have a probouleutic magistracy: 
if this is small, it is oligarchic, and called Tp6pov\oi ; if large, democratic 
and called /SouX^ : 6 /liv yap /3ouXeu7-i)s SijiumKbv, b Si irpb^ovXas iXiyapxt- 
Kbv. (There seems here a contrast of the large consultative body of the 
democracy with the small one of the oligarchy.) So in vii 8 1322 a 12 
the irpb^ovKoi and the /3oi/Xi) are described as similar institutions in dif- 
ferent constitutions. The term is used to describe the council at Cnidus 
(Plut. Q. G. i). At the same time in the instances in which we know of 
the TT/aAjSouXoi (as at Corinth and Athens) the term describes either a 
committee of the /SouX^ or a magistracy independent of it. 



as little real power as possible, we may assume that the 
corresponding oligarchic committees were appointed for 
a considerable period and possessed considerable power, 
securing the oligarchic ends of secrecy, efficiency and 

At Corinth there was a council of eighty (in all proba- 
bility) and a committee of eight^ : at Chios' and Massalia* 
there were bodies of fifteen chosen from the larger councils. 
At Corcyra^ and Eretria" magistrates called irpo^ovKoi are 
mentioned in inscriptions, though we know nothing of the 
duties they performed ; and committees of the council, 
with special titles, can be traced in Delphi', Megara, and 

^ Nicol. Dam. F. H. G. iii 394 (6 S^yitos) irapaxp^/xo KareirT^o-aTo ttoXi- 
Telav TOidvde' /xtav ^kv (i/crdSa irpo^odXojv iTotTjaej^j 4k d^ twv \oiiriov ^ovKt)v 
KariXf^ev avSpuv 8'. This is of course impossible. Busolt Die Lakedai- 
monier reads o' for 8'. He thinks that one 0uXi5 appointed eight irpbfiov- 
\oi, and from the other seven 0u\ai 70 senators were appointed. This 
seems extremely unlikely; is it not more probable that the source of the 
corruption lies in dvSpdp 7 I suggest dKTddav (perhaps avSpuv should pre- 
cede Trpo^oiXoiv above, cf. Ar. Ach. 755 Avdpes irpb^ovKoi): then we get a 
council of (9 X 8) + 8 = 80, i.e. 10 councillors chosen from each of eight 
tribes, and one from each made a Trp6^ov\os. 

' Cauer Delectus^ 496 a ol irevTeKald^Ka seem to have formed a com- 
mittee of the povkif. 

* At Massalia fifteen were chosen from rb avviSpiov of 600 (really an 
assembly, not a council) Treire/fafSe/ca 5' elai tov cwedptov irpoeaTwreSy Toi- 
Tots d^ ra irpdx^tpo. dt-oLKeTv S^Sorat Strabo iv 179. 

^ C. I. G. 1845 113. Both -rpb^ovKoi and irpiSiKoi. ^aXas are men- 

^ See Gilbert Handbuch ii p. 67 u. 2. 

' In Delphi two povXevral and a secretary are frequently mentioned in 
inscriptions. See Gilbert Handbuch ii p. 38. 

8 In Megara aUnp-varai. (Dittenberger Sylloge 218) and in Chalcedon 
(a Megarian colony) alavp-vUvTsi (C. I. G. 3794) occur. In the latter 
instance it is supposed that they act in the same capacity as the Athe- 

§ 47] THE ASSEMBLY. 165 

§ 47. The Assembly. 

In the heroic kingship, although no definite power or 
privilege was assigned to the assembly of the commons, it 
was still customary to convoke them to hear the decision 
of their chiefs, that they might express in primitive 
fashion their approval or dissent*. In this function lies 
the germ of those powers of the people, which were after- 
wards developed in the sovereign assemblies of the Greek 
democracy : but in the later aristocracies and in the 
oligarchies the commons lost for the most part even the 
small part which they had hitherto enjoyed in the con- 
stitution. The supreme council of government was the 
political creation of the aristocracy, and the powers wielded 
by it left small place for the assembly. In some oligarchies 
the commons still retained their right of meeting, and an 
assembly existed open to those who were otherwise politi- 
cally disqualified'': but the powers of such an assembly 
were neither independent nor important ; and in most 
oligarchies and aristocracies the commons had no place or 
lot whatever; for these constitutions involved the creation 
of a privileged class to which alone political rights were 
given, and the distinction of 'those within' and 'those 

nian Trpm-ivai. It is therefore assumed that in both states they origin- 
ally acted as irpS^ovXoi. 

1 Cf. Freeman Comparative Politics, p. 206. ' There is no formal 
reckoning of votes (in the Homeric assembly) ; but I suspect that any 
formal reckoning of votes is a refinement belonging to a much later stage 
of political life. To shout or to clash the arms is the primitive way of 
declaring assent.' 

" For the admission of the S^/iot (or a class otherwise unprivileged) to 
the assembly in oligarchies see Aristotle quoted in n. 3 § 41 and n. 5 


without the constitution ' arose. ' Those within the con- 
stitution ' formed some sort of assembly, which met when 
summoned and decided questions submitted to it, but 
differed as widely as possible from the assembly of a 

In the aristocracies of conquest, the members of the 
ruling race were alone qualified to take part in the 
assembly ; the subjects were altogether excluded. In the 
oligarchies of limited number, ' the Six Hundred ' or ' the 
Thousand' were the only privileged citizens. Their 
number was not too large to preclude discussion, and the 
assembly performed, therefore, some of the functions 
usually entrusted to the council : and in this form of 
constitution the institution was more important than in 
any other kind of oligarchy. In the dynasty there was 
probably nothing of the nature of an assembly'. 

Leaving these special forms of government out of 
view, we may assume that the ordinary oligarchical con- 
stitution did include some sort of assembly*. But it was 
characteristic of the oligarchy to make the council the 
responsible and efficient element in the constitution and 
to give but a minimum of power to the assembly. Its 
action was restricted to such questions as were brought 
before it by the magistrates or counciP; the magistrates 

' A dwaffrela dXlyoiv avSpQv probably held all power in their own 
hands. Of. the account of the rule of the Bacchiadae Diod. vii fr. 

* Ar. Pol. iii 1 refers to some states in which there was no regular 
assembly 1275 h 7 iv ivtais yap ovk Iffrt, Sfjfios, oi5' ^KKXiialav void^ovaw 
dXXa avyKk-fiTom. For the aiyKKifros we may cite Acragas and Melite. 
See Swoboda, Griechische Volksbeschlusse, p. 307. 

^ Ar. Pol. vi 14 1298 b 29 it is a good plan in an oligarchy to sub- 
mit to the people what the irpd^ovXai have decided upon and to limit the 
issue to the question submitted, oihoi yhp /leff^fei 6 5^/xos toC povXeieirdai 

§ 47] THE ASSEMBLY. 167 

were alone qualified to speak, there was practically no 
discussion and the assembly had only the power to express 
approval or dissent; and legally, perhaps, their dissent 
might be disregarded. The meetings served to make the 
citizens acquainted with the will and purpose of the 
! rulers ; they secured, as far as possible, that the action of 
1 the government should not be in conflict with the feelings 
of the people ; the assembly served also the purposes of 
publicity and registration' ; it was an ofiice of record for 
many formal acts which needed witnesses, such as the 
adoption of sons or the emancipation of slaves'. Lastly 
the assent of the assembly was especially called for in 
cases in which the state contracted responsibilities to other 
states. The decision of war and peace and treaties often 
took place in the assembly. It was doubtless felt that the 
honour of the state was more solemnly pledged by the 
united action of council and assembly. Even in the states 
I in which the power of the assembly was very small, it was 
\ generally called upon to participate in the decision of the 
community ^ The most important power that the assembly 

Kal \ieiv oiSh dw^fferai Twv irepi t^k voKtrelav ...aTo^ritpi^iJsvov f-iv yap 
xipiov Set TToieiv rb t\^6os, KaTa'ij/i)<l>i^bixevov Sk /jtij Kipiov. This is in a 
description of a moderate oligarchy in which the lower classes were 
admitted to the assembly ; the ordinary oligarchy probably gave even 
less power. 

' This was its function in the heroic age, Grote ii p. 69 ' The Agora 
was a special medium of publicity not including any idea of responsi- 

' For adoption see the Gortyn inscription x 33; for the emancipa- 
tion of Helots at Sparta, Thuo. v 34. 

' Hence even in oligarchies the regular form of decree would be ISo|c 
Tj /SouXj Kal T(p SijiMf (or some equivalent phrase). See Swoboda Grie- 
cMsche Volksbeschlusse, p. 24, who quotes the usual forms. 


exercised was the election of magistrates': but in some 
cases they do not seem to have exercised even this power 
freely^", and the example of Rome shows us how it was 
possible for an oligarchic council to interfere with the 
right of the citizens to appoint their magistrates. In some 
rare instances the council directly elected the officers of 

In all other respects the assembly acted only in sub- 
ordination to the council, without power of initiative or 
independence of action. In the rare event of disagree- 
ment between different magistrates or between magistrates 
and senate the assembly might be called upon to decide^^, 
but usually the policy of the state was already resolved 
on, when the assembly was invited to assent". It thus 
served generally to secure a general knowledge and pub- 
licity of policy and to register the divers acts of the 
state. In proportion as the power of the council rose, 
the importance of the assembly declined". 

' This Ar. Pol. ii 12 1274 a 15 calls tV dvayKaioTdrriv Siva/juv that 
can be given to the drjiju>s. 

^^ The method of 'double election,' which is described as oligarchic, 
prevented the people from exercising an absolute choice. It involved the 
interference of council or magistrates with the choice of the assembly. 

" Of. Ar. Ath. Pol. 8 2. 

^2 Cf. Thuc. i 87 where the assembly of Sparta decides between the 
king and the ephors. 

'^ Cf. the gradual decline of the power of the assembly at Venice 
{Encycl. Brit, xxiv p. 142). 'It remained none the less true that the 
people had been left nothing more than the illusory right of approving 
by acclamation each new doge after his election.' 

1* There are many passages laying stress on the small powers of the 
assembly in the oligarchy. Cf. Ar. Pol. ii 10 1272 a 10 (of Crete) iKK\-q- 
(xlas di lierixowri. irdiTes, Kvpla d' oidevds 4(tti.v aW rj <rvveTn<j/ri<(>i<rai to, 
do^avra toIs yipovffi xal toTs KOdixois ; Plut. Dion 53 (of Corinth) SKiyapx^- 

§ 47] THE ASSEMBLY. 169 

We shall gain a better idea of the place that might 
be occupied by an assembly in an oligarchic government, 
if we briefly survey the powers of the Apella at Sparta. 
We must remember, however, that the Spartan govern- 
ment was unlike that of the ordinary oligarchy; for the 
theory that all Spartiates were equally privileged was 
maintained, and hence the assembly was entrusted with 
some considerable powers. 

Originally the ' people ' at Sparta was to have ' sove- 
reignty and power ' : in later times the senate and the 
Ephors had obtained the supreme control of the state. 
Doubtless this had come to pass, to a great extent im- 
perceptibly and unconsciously, by the natural working of 
political forces, but history records a formal change in the 
charter of the Spartan constitution by which the kings and 
senate were rendered competent to set aside a ' crooked ' 
decision of the people. Plutarch says that the assembly 
had been affecting the power to amend or to add to the 
proposals submitted to them and the kings added this 
clause to prevent them. But whatever the original 
intention may have been, such a provision could be 
wrested to deprive the assembly of all authority: the 
magistrates and council might on occasion feel strong 
enough to neglect entirely the popular vote'^ 

In any case the assembly was entirely subordinate to 

Ktbrepov re TroKiTevofi^vovs Kal fj.7] TroXXdi rojv Kotvuv iv Tt^ b^ixi^ wpoiTTOVTas J 
Dionys. Hal. vii 4 (of Cyme) ^v S' dpi,(TT0Kpa.Ha,...Kal 6 Srjfi,os oi TroXXuK 
TLVOJV Kipios. 

" Plut. Lye. 6. Grote and Gilbert think that the clause was intended 
to give the magistrates power to quash any decision of the assembly: 
others that the assembly was forbidden to vote except directly on the 
motion submitted. In any case the amendment was intended to check 
any encroachment of the Apella. 


the senate and only possessed the right to listen to the 
magistrates and senators, without speaking against them'', 
and to express their decision in the primitive fashion by 

The assembly was called upon to decide war and 
peace, to sanction treaties and other matters of foreign 
politics ; it chose the magistrates and voted on other 
important subjects submitted to it'^ It also seems to 
have been the rule at Sparta for ambassadors to be 
received in the assembly''. 

§ 48. Judicial Affairs. 

In the Greek constitutions legislation was a political 
function that was rarely exercised. The old aristocracies 
rested on the maintenance of traditional ordinances 
(sometimes unwritten) which had come down from a 
remote antiquity. Of the oligarchies and democracies 
of more recent creation many were the work of law- 
givers, who had newly ordered the whole of the insti- 
tutions of the state, and who vainly hoped that their 
work would possess finality. But in all constitutions 

^^ Plut. hye. 6 Tov 5k ttXtJ^ous ddpoicrdivTos elweiv ^xkv ovSevl yvdj/j,Tjv 
rCiv dWuv icpelrOt t7]V 5' virh t(ov yepbvTiav Kal tGiv §affCK^ojv irpoTedelffav 
iiTLKplpat Kipio^ riv 6 Sij/xos. 

" Thuo. i 87 : Plut. Lye. 26. 

'8 The evidence is collected in Gilbert, Handbuch i^ p. 57. 

^^ Cf. Thuc. i 67 the conference of allies is held before fiiXXovos 6 
duiBilis : i 90 and vi 88 ambassadors go before the iKKK-qala. This seems 
at variance with the usual oligarchic practice. At Melos the oligarchs 
receive the Athenians iv rals dpxcU Kal rots dMyois (Thuc. v 84); and 
Cleon accuses the Lacedaemonian ambassadors t(? pih irX'fjOa o6Sh 
id^ovatv elireiv, 6\iyois 5e &vSp<i<n ^6veSpoL ^oijKovTaL yiyv€<r9ai (Thuc. iv 


and at all times jurisdiction formed a most important 
branch of political activity. 

Oligarchies were, perhaps, even more averse to changes 
of constitution than democracies; reform was likely to 
dissolve privilege and the oligarchs made a point of their 
respect for law and order. Jurisdiction was of course 
a necessity : legal processes were not so frequent as in a 
democracy, for the larger powers given to the oligarchic 
magistrates must often have obviated the necessity for 
a regular trial : and we may suppose that in many 
constitutions the magistrate's command had often the 
effect of a summary jurisdiction in inflicting punishment 
or redressing a wrong. But the ordinary oligarchies, with 
all the complexity of affairs arising from industry, com- 
merce and navigation, felt the need of an efficient judicial 
system, and they probably paid almost as much attention 
to judicial organisation as the democracies. 

No uniformity can be traced in the legal system of 
the different oligarchic governments. Jurisdiction might 
be entrusted to a single magistrate or to a board of 
magistrates; to the council, to special judges or courts, 
even to large j ury courts composed of men, who in all else 
were excluded from the constitution. 

To trace the subject historically; in the Heroic age 
there do not seem to have been any special judicial magis- 
trates : trials were conducted either by the king or by the 
chiefs, always in public. The idea of a fixed law, defining 
in advance right and wrong, and prescribing penalties in 
case of violation, had not yet arisen. Each case was con- 
sidered as if it stood entirely by itself: the 'dooms' 
were supposed to be inspired by the gods^, but except for 
1 See Maine, Ancient Law, pp. 4 ff. 


a vague respect for custom and precedent, there was no 
means of testing the equity of the sentence. In the 
aristocracies the nobles were 'the depositaries and ad- 
ministrators of law ' : they alone knew the principles of 
right and the customary rules of procedure : they mono- 
polised the knowledge of the lawl The duty of conducting 
the trial and pronouncing the sentence, passed either to 
the magistrate as the inheritor of the king's powers, or 
to the council as the representative of the chiefs. It was 
probably at this period that the jurisdiction of the whole 
privileged body arose : the magistrate whose most essential 
function was to give commands might enforce them by 
punishment : but all communities find it necessary to put 
some limit on the magistrate's power, and a frequent 
solution, when his authority was questioned, was to grant 
an appeal to the assembly. This was the origin of the 
jurisdiction of the assembly at Rome ; it was the idea 
underlying the popular jurisdiction at Athens, and there 
are instances of a similar procedure in some oligarchies'. 
But the method was not altogether in accord with the 
oligarchic theory of the specialisation of political duties : 
it was characteristic of oligarchy that ' some classes should 
judge all causes,' and it was usual to entrust judicial 
duties to smaller bodies than the assembly*. 

2 lb. p. 11. 

' Instances of trials by the whole governing body of the oligarchy 
occur at Syracuse (where the yeuifiopoi decide a suit, Diod. viii 91) : at 
Loori Epizephyrii (where the Thousand decide an appeal from the magis- 
trate, Polyb. xii 16) and at Massalia (where the Six Hundred act as 
judges, Lucian Toxar. 24). 

' Ar. Pol. vi 16 1301 a 12 ri Se deirepa, dXiyapx^Ka, Sira ix tivIov irepl 
Tdvrav, ra SI rptra dpurTOKpanKci, Kal ttoXitiko, oVo to, /iiv ix irAvniii, ri, 
5' iK TtvQv. 


Some states left all jurisdiction, to the ordinary ad- 
ministrative magistrates and the council. Sparta, true 
to the traditions of the Heroic constitution, divided it 
between the kings, the council and the Ephors' : as 
Athens originally between the Archons and the Council 
of the Areopagus'; for some centuries such a divi- 
sion of judicial authority was normal, and even in 
later times the survival of the judicial powers of the 
council can be traced in some states'. Few however 
remained content with the primitive system of earlier 
times. Customary law almost everywhere gave way to 
written law^, rules of procedure were published, magis- 
trates were bound by the terms of the statutes and 
could no longer give inspired 'dooms.' This general 
development made law and justice scientific, and as a 
natural consequence special legal magistrates and special 
courts were instituted. Even in backward and semi- 

^ Generally speaking the senate had criminal jurisdiction : the Ephors 
most of the civil jurisdiction (of. Ar. Pol. Hi 1 1275 b 9 ; for other evi- 
dence see Gilbert, Handbuch i^ pp. 89 — 90): the kings retaining the 
judgment of certain cases of family law, etc. (Hdt. vi 57). The system 
was altogether primitive; it is probable that there was no written law 
at Sparta ; the judgments were $4iu<rTes. 

8 On the independent judicial powers of the Archons see Ar. Ath. Pol. 
3 5. The Areopagus had an indefinite competence, and originally per- 
haps no distinction was drawn between its judicial and its administrative 
functions, but it is clear that from the earliest times it had an extensive 
jurisdiction (of. i6. 3 6 ; 4 5 ; 8 4. 

' At Thebes we fiiid the /SouXi; trying a case of murder (Xen. Hell, vii 
3 5—6). This is in the time of the democracy, but the power of the 
council was doubtless a survival. At Corinth jSouXij and a-vviSpiov take 
part in the trial of Timoleon (if that is to be regarded as a judicial 
process) Diod. xvi 65. 

8 It is doubtful whether Sparta ever had any written laws other than 
the pTjrpai. 


barbarous states we find an elaborate judicial organisation: 
Aristotle in his section on the law-courts always assumes 
that such institutions will be found in some form in 
oligarchies and aristocracies, as well as in democracies', 
and it is quite possible that Sparta was the only Greek 
state with any pretension to civilisation in which no 
special dicastic institutions were developed. 

We have not sufficient evidence to enable us to trace 
the difiference of procedure in public and private causes : 
but it is quite probable that private causes were often 
left to the decision of a single judge or a small court, while 
public causes, involving injury to the state, came before 
some body, which represented the community, either the 
council or the assembly^". This is one explanation of 
the survival of the judicial powers of the council in later 
times. We can also trace the existence of special dicasteries 
in some oligarchies. Naturally the large popular jury 
courts were rarely to be found except in democracies : 
they were opposed to oligarchic ideas of proper govern- 
ment : they gave power to the many rather than to the 
few : they required popular oratory and appeals to feeling 
and the employment of irrelevant arguments. Hence it 

" Ar. Pol. vi 14 1298 a 3 t6 diKoil^ov is distinguished as a separate 
element found in all constitutions. Of. vi 8 1294 a 37, ib. 13 1297 a 21, 
both of which assume the existence of SiKaaral in oligarchies. Of. the 
passage quoted in n. 4 above. In the description of the Carthaginian 
constitution, ii 11 1273 a 19, it is apparently defined as aristocratic, t6 
tAs SUa^ inro TLvfav dpxsiojv SiKd^eo'daL Trd<ras, Kal fii) &Was i^tt' aXXwp, 
Kaffdirep (i> AaKeSalfiovi. This points to the institution of special legal 

1° Thus the Archons at Athens (to judge by their competence in 
later times) were concerned with private law: the Council of the 
Areopagus, like the senate at Sparta, and the Council at Thebes, had 
public jurisdiction. 


was a natural consequence both of oligarchic sentiment 
and of the system of small courts, that in oligarchies the 
speakers in trials should be kept to their subject and 
should not be allowed to work on the emotions of the 
judges". One of the earliest acts in both oligarchic 
revolutions at Athens was the suspension of the popular 
jury courts '^ 

In some oligarchies, however, we find traces of large 
courts and even of the appointment of jurors from the 
classes excluded in other respects from all political pri- 
vilege. Thus at Chios we have evidence of a court of 
three hundred at a time when the island was probably 
under a close oligarchy", while in other states, of which 
Heraclea on the Pontus serves as the example, the juries 
were composed of men who were not on the citizen roll, 
and this gave the orators an opportunity to make dema- 

^^ Ar. Jlhet, i 1 1354 a 17 to, roLavra ird.dyi r^s ^vxv^ °^ ^^P' "^^^ 
irpdyfiaTos iffTLV dXXct ivpbs rbv SiKaffT-^v. wtrr' ei irepi irdffas r/v rds Kpi- 
cets KaBAwep hi hlats ye vvv iarl riav ToXewv Kal fid^iffra 4v rats eivofiov- 
fxhais oi8h av etxov otl \iyov(nv...ol 5^ koX Kfa\6ovaiv ^^w tov irpAyfiaros 
\4yeiv KaB&irep Kal iv 'Apeiifi ir&yif. Cf. Plut. de virt. mart. 7 toi>s pi)Topai 
iv TOLs ApiffTOKpaHats oi)K iuifft Tadaiveffdat. 

12 In 411 the first step was to give the generals summary jurisdiction 
with power of life and death (Ar. Ath. Pol. 29 5). We are not told to 
whom judicial power was to be entrusted under the oligarchy. It was 
perhaps included (with eOBvvai) in the general administrative powers of 
the pov\ri {ib. 31 1). The Thirty t6 Kvpos 8 ^v iv toIs diKatrrdis Kari- 
\vcrav (ib. 35 2). Trials were conducted in the /SouXi; of five hundred 
with open voting and in the presence of the Thirty, but they put many 
to death under their own order without trial (Lys. xiii 85). 

1* Eoberts, Epigraphy 149 22. The inscription is referred to the fifth 
century. The explanation of so large a court under an oligarchy may lie 
in the alliance with Athens, as SIkm dir4 <rvp.pi\av may have required 
some such institution, which may have been generally used. 


gogic appeals, which finally led to the overthrow of the 

Three important inscriptions, referring to procedure in 
private causes in different oligarchies, have come down to 
us. These show that an elaborate organisation of judicial 
affairs prevailed even in the backward states, while they 
prove that the excellent judicial institutions which the 
Greeks developed were not confined to the democracies. 

In the Gortyn inscription we gain an insight into the 
law regulating family relations, inheritance and slavery. 
In all disputes concerning these matters a single judge 
decides : and although much of the law is primitive, the 
system in some ways shows a comparatively high develop- 

The inscription concerning the colony at Naupactus 
sent out by the Eastern Locrians, at a date usually 
assigned to about the middle of the fifth century B.C., 
shows a separation of the duties of the presiding magis- 
trate and the judges: the magistrate receives the charge 
and grants a trial, the judges decide by ballot '°. 

An even more complicated system of jurisdiction is 
revealed in the semi-barbarous state of the Western 
Locrians. The fi^agments of the treaty between Oeanthea 
and Chaleion provide for suits between members of differ- 

" Ar. Pol. viii 6 1305 b 34. 

1" On this see Zitelmann, Das Recht von Gortyn, pp. 67 ff. and J. W. 
Headlam (Journal of Hellenic Studies xiii 1 pp. 48 — 69). 

1° See Roberts, Epigraphy 231 1. 41 rav SUav SS/ier Mr Roberts says= 
grant a hearing. I should compare indicium, dare and translate ' grant a 
trial' (so. a court); 1. 45 iv iiSplav roc \j'd(f>i^^i,v el/iec. Pindar, 01. ix 15, 
praises Opus for eivo/da and Bi/us, and the praise was perhaps not 
merely conventional. 


ent communities and prescribe the conditions for them". 
Herein we have the distinction between local jurisdiction'' 
and what we should call to-day ' international ' courts. In 
the latter courts there are different kinds of judges", and 
the presiding magistrates choose jurymen to decide on 

These instances, coming not from the highly civilised 
commercial states of central Greece and the Aegean, but 
from the backward tribes in the north and from Crete, 
show us that the oligarchies did not neglect the proper 
organisation of judicial institutions, and we may reasonably 
conclude that the great commercial cities such as Aegina 
and Megara and Corinth developed their legal system to 
as high a pitch of perfection as the great trading demo- 
cracies such as Athens^". 

§ 49. Tribal Divisions. 

Having concluded the discussion of the powers of 
government I proceed to consider the question of tribal 
and class divisions in oligarchies. I have discussed in 
a previous chapter the gradual break-up of the tribal 
organisation and the substitution of local, political di- 

" SlKai &irb (TviipHKuv, of. Roberts, Epigraphy 232 1. 35 Swdj^uvTai. 
KCLT Tcis avv^okas. 

^^ 1. 7 iinSa^ia Slictj. 

1' 1. 10 Tol ^evodUai. (=recuperatores) and kvajj-orai, act in one event; 
and dafiiopyol and ItpKiafwrai in another. 

20 There must have been courts for the settlement of disputes be- 
tween citizens of these cities and those of other states. This may 
account for the praise lavished by Pindar on the respect which states 
like Aegina and Corinth had for law and justice. Cf. 01. xiii 6 ; Pyth. 
viii 1 ; 01. viii 21. 

W. 12 


visions for the old tribes based on birth and religion, and 
I have pointed out that it was only where this was 
brought to pass that any government other than aristo- 
cracy was possible. But where aristocracy survived, where 
birth and privilege remained united, it was necessary to 
maintain the old divisions of tribe and phratry and house 
uncorrupted and unassailed. It is strange that there is 
scarcely any direct evidence for the existence of the 
Dorian tribes at Sparta', but we can scarcely doubt that 
they existed there, and we hear also of twenty-seven 
phra tries ^ 

The Dorian tribes formed divisions of the population 
in many other states : in some they lost their exclusive 
privileges and other tribes of equal right were instituted : 
in others, perhaps, they lost all political importance, but 
some few probably still retained the old Dorian tra- 
ditions ^ 

Tribal divisions always point to the smaller groups out 
of which cities are formed, and are usually associated with 
the territorial influence of certain noble families. The 
ideal of the noble was that he and his clan should be 
absolute rulers in however small a domain. Hence some 

1 The moat important evidence is in Pind. Pyth. i 62 Ila/xipiXm Kal 
/iav '\ei.Sdv ^Kyovoi (as a description of the Spartans). It seema most 
likely that the Dorian tribes arose before the Dorian migration and, as 
they were found in many Dorian colonies, it is a natural inference that 
they existed in Sparta. 

2 Demetrius of Skepsis in Ath. iv 141 e, r. 

^ There is a reference to the <pv\al in Bpidauros in Isyllus b 6 (in 
Wilamowitz-Mollendorff, Isyllos p. 9 : he identifies them with the Dorian 
tribes and the Hymathii). The 'TWets are mentioned in an inscription 
from Thera. The Dorian tribes can be traced in Cos (see Gilbert, Hand- 
buck ii p. 174 n. 1) ; Acragas (Cauer Delectus'^ 199). 


states never advanced beyond the tribal stage of develop- 
ment ■* ; in others the tendency to union and centralisation 
was always resisted. Decentralisation was always a means 
of establishing the supremacy of noble families and of 
preventing or dissolving democracy. 

Some states though formed by amalgamation still 
retained local divisions, which hindered the union from 
being complete^, and some districts, though recognising 
common race and forming loose federal leagues, left the 
separate towns within their borders absolutely indepen- 
dent*. We may regard it as a frequent principle of 
(aristocratic or) oligarchic policy to break up the larger 
states into their constituent elements and so to restore 
the influence of powerful men, while tlie supporters of 
democracy saw in the union of smaller communities under 
one strong government the only device for counteracting 
this influence and so rendering popular government a 
possibility. These tendencies might be carried out on a 
larger plane, and we shall thus understand the constant 
(although hypocritical') assertion on the part of Sparta of 
the principle of autonomy^ which had so disastrous an 

* Thuc. i 5. 

5 Although Sparta became a united state she retained the traces of 
earlier institutions and the five villages of the Spartan plain were never 
merged in a city (Thuc. i 10). They formed the basis of a political 
division into five local tribes. (For the evidence see Gilbert, Handlmch i^ 
pp. 44 — 5. He connects them with the iij3a(.) 

' This was the case in Thessaly, Ozolian Locris (cf. the treaty 
between Oeanthea and Chaleion in Roberts Epigraphy 232), and for a 
long time in Boeotia. 

' If we consider the control exercised by Sparta over the Pelopon- 
nesian states and her constant interference in the interest of oligarchy, 
we reaUse the hollowness of her pretensions. 

8 Her pretended desire to restore autonomy was the great pretext with 



effect on Greece, her hostility to leagues, whether of 
kindred peoples" or of cities of different race^", and her 
policy of breaking up cities into the village communities 
by the combination of which they had been originally 

The fate of Mantinea affords an illustration of the 
intimate connexion between oligarchy and decentralisa- 
tion. A united state under a democratic government", it 
was broken into five villages in 385 and an oligarchic 
constitution introduced "^ In 370 the state was united 
and democracy restored. Arcadia, as a whole, scarcely 
passed out of the stage of village communities till the 
fourth century, and the foundation of Megalopolis was 
intended to put an end to this disunion and decentrali- 
sation". Elis, until a comparatively late period, consisted 
of a number of small communities governed by aristo- 
cracies with an elaborate tribal organisation" ; but on 
their union in one state democracy was established. 

One more illustration of this oligarchic principle is 
afforded by the history of the Thirty at Athens. They 
themselves tried to break up the state by dispersing the 

which she entered on the Pelopounesian war. The principle is stated in 
the two treaties with Argos (Thuc. v 77 5 ; 79 1) ; it was asserted in the 
peace of Antalcidas and before Leuctra. 

^ As in Boeotia. 

1° As in the case of the Athenian and Olynthian confederacies. 

" Thuc. V 29. 

12 Xen. Hell, y 27 describes the constitution as ipta-roKparla, probably 
in the sense of dXiyapxla. The long period of democracy must have 
broken the power of the nobles and he says that oi Ix"'"'^' ris oialas held 
the government. 

12 For the attempt of Sparta dioiKi^eiv rois M-eyaXoToXlras cf. Dem. 

" See Cauer Delectus' 253. 


population and by preparing Salamis and Eleusis for their 
own occupation. We learn for the first time from the 
Aristotelian treatise how directly the Spartans aimed at 
the dissolution of the Athenian state by making it part of 
the terms of peace that Eleusis should form an autonomous 
community, absolutely independent of Athens". 

§ 50. Glass Divisions in Aristocracies and Oligarchies. 

In the old aristocracies there was a sharp line separating 
the privileged and the unprivileged ; and the separation 
was nowhere more marked than in the aristocracies of 
conquest. Many of these maintained throughout the 
period of Greek independence the most rigid distinctions 
of classes, which were in fact fixed almost as definitely as 
castes. The victors were rulers, the vanquished were 
subjects. Generally speaking there was a triple division 
into the ruling race (the members whereof were often 
themselves divided into nobles and commons'), a class of 
serfs and an intermediate class of men free, but in political 
subjection ^ 

Such class divisions can be traced in almost all the 
aristocracies of conquest and in several Dorian colonies, in 

'° Ar. Ath. Pol. 39. The settlers at Eleusis were to be Kiipioi xal 
airoKpiropes, to be separate contributories to the Spartan Alliance and in 
every way free from Athenian control. 

' See above § 32. Meyer, Geschichte des Alterthums ii p. 272, raises a 
doubt about the origin of these classes: 'the ancients sought their origin 
in conquest : this is not tradition but inference : the Perioeci and Helots 
are, if not by descent, at least in sentiment no Achaeans but Dorians. 
The origin of serfdom was probably various and forgotten.' This last 
statement is no doubt true, but there does not seem sufficient reason for 
rejecting the general tradition. 

^ Plato Rep. viii 547 c speaks generally of irepiolKovs re Kal oUiras. 


which, no doubt, the previous population had been re- 

The serfs were a class of labourers attached to the 
soil' delivering the greater part of the produce to their 
masters, yet allowed to acquire private property them- 
selves*. In states in which they were employed bought 
slaves were scarcely found at all^. There seems to have 
been no common title to describe them in Greece, but 
their position in other states seems to have been very 
similar to that of the Helots in Sparta*. They were 
generally treated with great harshness by the ruling class 

3 Of. Athen. vi 264 a of the Penestae irapiiaKav eauToi>! tois GeTraXois 
5ovkei€i,v Kad^ OfwXoyiaSt ^0* y oUre i^dyovcnv adroiis €k ttjs x^P^^ ^^^ 
diroKTevoOinv' aiyroi 6^ ttjv xtipap airroTs ipya^d^evoi rdj avvrd^eLS dirodib- 
<rov<ru'. Cf. i6. 263 d of the Mariandyni in the Pontic Heraclea. On the 
Helots see Strabo viii 365; Plut. Inst. Lac. 41. 

* Cf. Athen. vi 264 B ttoWoI tuv Kvplav iavruiv daw eiiropiirepoi. The 
dipaiuarai of Crete [potKies of Gortyn) might own property. See Zitel- 
mann op. cit. p. 64. For the property of the Helots see Plut. Cleom. 23. 

^ There is scarcely any trace of bought slaves in Spartan ownership, 
but the Perioeci may have used them in their industries. In Crete 
XpvffibvrjTot are distinguished from serfs in Athen. vi 263 e; they are 
probably the same as the SoOXoi of the Gortyn inscription and are con- 
trasted as oUiTai, Kara vb\i.v with the serfs in the country. 

^ The Helots are generally taken as a type and the other serfs 
compared to them. Cf. PoU. iii 83. Serfs of this kind can be traced 
in Thessaly (TreviaTai), in most of the Dorian states of the Peloponnesus 
besides Sparta, Argos [yvuvriTei), Epidaurus (KovliroSes), Sicyon (KariiivaKo- 
06/101 or Kopmri(p6poi), Corinth (possibly the KvvbtpoKoi held this position). 
The serfs in these states were probably of Greek race. In the Dorian 
colonies of Heraclea in Trachis (Ki/XiKpai'es), Heraclea in Pontus (Mapiav- 
Sucol), Byzantium (vpoiviKoC), in Crete {livfrat and dtpa/uwrai), Syracuse 
{KoKKiKiipioi) they were probably barbarians. On the attempt to establish 
serfdom in Athens see above § 25 n. 9. On the subject generally see 
Gilbert Handhuch ii pp. 292 — 3, Hermann Lehrhmh der Staatsaltertumer^ 
pp. 126—8. 


and were in many cases permanently disaffected and ready 
to rebel'. 

The intermediate class of subjects were often described 
by Greek writers by the name they bore in Lacedaemon 
{■n-epLoiKoty. They were not found so universally in the 
Dorian states as the serfs. Isocrates explains that most of 
the Dorian invaders allowed part of the conquered peoples 
to dwell with them, although excluded from power and 
office, but that the Lacedaemonians deprived them of the 
best land and scattered them to live in small towns in 
absolute subjection to themselves*. In other Dorian 
towns part of the conquered population sometimes formed 
tribes separate from the three Dorian tribes, although they 
were not at first admitted to citizenship. A class similar 
to the perioeci can be distinguished in Thessaly and in 

I have assumed above that the perioeci like the Helots 

' Of. At. Pol. iii 9 1269 a 36 of Helots and Penestae uawep yhp 
i^eSpe'^ovres rots irvxHiiain SiareXouffiv. 

8 Hdt. viii 73 uses the term of the Argive 'Opvearai.; Sosiorates in 
Atheu. vi 263 f says ol KpiJTes Ka\ou(ii,...Toii! imriKbovs irepioUovs. On the 
other hand the term ireploiKot ia not used consistently. Hesyohius uses 
it to define the d<t>aiuwTai, and Aristotle (in Pol. ii ch. 10) uses it three 
times of the Cretan serfs. (I should have pointed out in n. 6 that 
there are traces of many different terms being applied to the Cretan serfs, 
d^a/uioTai, /iv(^Tai, /tXapSrot, foiKies (at Gortyn) and ircploLKOi. It seems 
probable that different titles were used to describe them in different towns 
of Crete.) Their position in the state made inr-qKooi appropriate as a 
general description of the class. Thuoydides constantly applies the term 
to the subjects of the Thessalians (ii 101; iv 78; cf. Xen. Hell, vi 1 9). 
Gilbert, Handbuch ii p. 16 n. 1, assumes on insufficient evidence that the 
subject class in Thessaly bore the title of (ri/i/mxot. 

' Isocr. xii 177 — 8. It is not clear whether Isocrates regards the 
Perioeci as the conq^uered population : but I assume that he does, as he 
talks of the 'rightful owners of the land' (before the Dorian invasion). 


originally belonged to the race conquered by the Dorian 
invaders. It is hard to explain the difference in the 
position of the two classes. Some writers assume a 
difference of race to account for the original difference of 
condition, but the balance of probability is on the whole 
against this assumption, although in the course of time 
no doubt both Helots and Perioeci included people of 
more than one race". 

The theory that the Helots were the serfs of the 
' Achaeans ' who occupied the Peloponnese before the 
Dorian invasion and that the Perioeci were the conquered 
'Achaeans' lacks evidence. Others assume that while 
the original Helots were the peoples subdued by the 
Dorians, the Perioeci were themselves originally Dorian: 
that in the Dorian invasion the invaders were divided into 
nobles (who afterwards became Spartiates) and commons 
who were made Perioeci". Many of the ancient writers 
considered the Perioeci to be Dorian ; they were included 
with the Spartiates in the term ' Lacedaemonians,' and no 
diversity of religion can be established ^2. But it is more 
probable that they were Achaeans ; in favour of this 
assumption is the fact that there were noble families 
within the ranks both of the Spartiates and the 

i" Many Dorians must have been reduced to the condition of Helots 
after the conquest of Messenia. 

" Grote ii p. 371 (who says : ' The Perioekio townships were probably 
composed either of Dorians entirely or of Dorians incorporated in 
greater or less proportion with the preexisting inhabitants') refers to 
Hdt. viii 73 and i 145. 

1^ It is not possible to draw any conclusion from religion. Of. 
S. Wide Lakonische Kulte p. 387 — 8 ' Dorian and pre-Dorian cults cannot 
be distinguished. The Dorians probably took over most of their cults 
from the older inhabitants.' 


Perioeci'' ; and above all the way in which the Spartan 
constitution was regarded. As I have already pointed out, 
the perioeci were entirely omitted from consideration, the 
Spartiates were regarded as forming the whole civic 
community, organised on an equal and democratic basis". 
Such an idea would not have been so persistent had 
not the Perioeci been regarded as subjects of another race. 
If we assume that the Spartiates included all the original 
invaders, we can only suppose that the Perioeci got more 
favourable terms than the Helots when they submitted^^ 

Similarly in Thessaly the Penestae were the inhabitants 
of the districts occupied by the Thessalian conquerors, while 
the Perrhaebi, Magnetes and Achaei, who occupied the 
more distant parts of Thessaly, had been granted better 
terms and were in a less galling subjection than the 
Perioeci of Lacedaemon, as they retained their tribe name 
and still remained members of the Delphian Amphi- 

The existence of separate classes based upon birth 
usually involves a diversity of occupation and so effects a 
division of labour. Thus in Lacedaemon agriculture was 

^' The inference is doubtful: on the Spartiates see § 32 n. 7; Xen. 
Hell. V 3 9 talks of the KaXol Kiya8oi tuv vepiolKui', 

" See above § 3 n. 15 and ef. especially Isocr. xii 178 who talks of 
the laovoida and STi/ioKparla of the Spartiates. Isocrates (xii 255) regards 
the original Spartan invaders as not being more than two thousand in 

'^ Mr J. W. Headlam ingeniously suggests that the difference of 
status arose from the difference of occupation, the Perioeci living in 
the towns the Helots in the country. The distinction is so early, how- 
ever, that we have no data to decide whether the difference of status was 
cause or effect. 

" See Grote ii p. 279. 


given over to the Helots, while commerce and industry 
were left to the Perioeci. The ruling class practised the 
arts of war and government. But the aristocracy usually 
went further than this : they not only felt a contempt for 
commerce and industry, but they made the practice of 
either pursuit an absolute disqualification for citizenship". 

To consider particular instances, at Sparta the banausic 
arts were entirely forbidden to a citizen'' ; at Thebes, 
Aristotle says, a man must have 'held aloof from the 
market-place for ten years,' before he was eligible for 
citizenship '^ At Thespiae even agriculture was con- 
sidered dishonourable ''''. 

In Thessaly there was a ' freemen's agora ' from which 
the farmer and the tradesman were excluded^S while at 
Epidamnus, a colony which must have had a most im- 
portant trade with the barbarians of Western Greece, 
industry was carried on by state slaves'''', the citizens were 
precluded from actually taking part in commerce, and a 
public magistrate superintended sales to foreigners^. 

Naturally oligarchies in which privilege was based on 
wealth and the wealth was mainly derived from commerce 
could not inflict disabilities on the trader. In this respect 

" I have discussed the general aspects of this question above in § 12. 
See n. 3 there. 

1^ Aelian V. H. vi 6 pdvavcrov S' ctShai rix"'')'' ^vSpa AaKtSat/MdviOV oix 
i^TJv. Plut. Lye. 4. We may compare, as characteristic of the same 
intolerant spirit, the exclusion of foreigners (|eio;Xacr£oi) which prevailed 
in Sparta and Crete. 

^ Pol. iii 5 1278 a 26: cf. vii 7 1321 a 28. 

2» Heracl. Pont. F. H. G. 

21 Ar. Pol. iv 12 1331 a 32. 

"2 Ar. Pol. ii 7 1267 b 17. 

23 Plut. Q. G. 29. 

§ 51] SUMMARY. 187 

they differed radically from the aristocracies, but they 
inherited from them the contempt for the classes ex- 
cluded from the government, and Corinth was dis- 
tinguished for despising handicrafts less than any other 
state ^. 

§ 51. Summary. 

I have brought to a close my study of the political 
organisation of aristocracies and oligarchies. In both 
constitutions we may notice the action of the same prin- 
ciples : both believed in the unwisdom of the multitude, 
in the justice and necessity of limiting privilege to a few, 
and in letting these rule the rest of the population, as 
subjects excluded from citizen rights. Both had the same 
scheme of government, in which the mean was struck 
between the single dominion of a tyrant and the sove- 
reignty of a large assembly, by the creation of a council, 
in which a few able men, acting in concert, were to direct 
the policy of the state. In both the magistrates had 
considerable independent authority ; the theory of special- 
isation of functions was realised and the rulers were left 
free of control and generally irresponsible. Throughout 
the constitution the theory of ' some men ' being qualified 
and 'most men' unqualified was carried out; and law- 
courts and assemblies were both filled by members of the 
privileged minority. 

But the points of difference between the aristocracies 
of birth and the oligarchies of wealth were almost as great 

^ Hdt. ii 167 (after discussing the general attitude of the Greeks) 
riKiara Si KoplvBiot ivovTai, roiis x^'/""'^X''<"' 


as the points of similarity. The end of the aristocrat was 
success in war : the end of the oligarch wealth : the former 
(at least in Crete and Sparta) passed his life in military 
training and martial exercises, the latter in commerce and 
industry, pursuits which were either forbidden or put 
under a grave social stigma in aristocracies. The common 
system of Sparta and Crete led to a uniformity of life, 
and demanded an ascetic abstinence ; the rich oligarchies 
were noted for their luxury and extravagance. The aris- 
tocracies rested on the maintenance of fixed ordinances 
and customs : they were conservative, slow to move and 
cautious. The oligarchies were keen and enterprising, 
anxious never to be displaced in the struggle for wealth 
and honour. 

The aristocracies of birth were found in states in a 
backward stage of civilisation. Setting aside Crete and 
Sparta, aristocratic constitutions survived mainly in the 
semi-barbarous states of northern Greece. Had they 
been affected by the general advance of civilisation, their 
constitutions must have submitted to the inevitable 
progress, which elsewhere produced oligarchy or demo- 
cracy. Even Sparta cannot be regarded as an altogether 
civilised state : in many respects the Spartiates resemble 
rather a host of savage warriors than the citizens of a 
Greek city. The Spartan system is an instance of the 
truth, that social uniformity, especially when combined 
with a narrow military ideal, must be purchased at a 
ruinous cost. It requires a good deal of imagination to 
conceive what the ordinary Spartiate was like, but Plu- 
tarch's statement that ' he wore one shirt all the year 
round, was filthy of body and for the most part abstained 

§ 51] SUMMARY. 189 

from washing,' is a strong corrective to the unmeasured 
panegyrics pronounced upon the race. 

From his earliest years the individual at Sparta was 
sacrificed entirely to the state. An education, which 
stunted all his faculties, prepared him for the practice of 
war ; and as a consequence Sparta produced scarce ten 
men who were eminent in aught else than the art of war. 
'The whole scheme of their laws,' says Aristotle, 'is 
directed only to a part of virtue, to martial valour. So 
while they warred they were saved, but were ruined when 
they ruled, for they knew not how to be at leisure and 
had never practised any art more sovereign than the art 
of war.' No part of Aristotle's indictment is truer or 
more damning than that 'they knew not how to be at 
leisure.' All that constitutes the glory of the Greeks is 
entirely lacking in the Spartan: there is not a trace of 
Spartan literature and to have practised the fine arts 
would have disfranchised a citizen. 

Lastly, they failed even in following their own ideal. 
Empire was the end of their national life : empire they 
attained by false professions of bringing liberty to the 
oppressed, and by a sacrifice of Greek interests to the 
barbarian. Empire they maintained by means of a crush- 
ing tyranny and a violation of justice ; and empire they 
lost, as soon as another race rose to military preeminence. 
Lastly the very system on which the Spartan fortunes 
rested became itself corrupt and effete : it was intended 
to abolish private wealth and to make the citizens superior 
to money: it succeeded eventually in impoverishing the 
state, making the citizens greedy of lucre and finally in 
disfranchising all but a hundred, in whose hands wealth 
was concentrated. 


At their best the Spartans were harsh soldiers ; ruling 
so oppressively over their subjects, that they were always 
fiercely hated: in their private life not touched by the 
influences of Hellenic culture, living in a barrack with 
the ideals of a barrack : politically well disciplined and 
obedient, cautious, stupid and conservative. 

The oligarchy of wealth differed from the aristocracy 
of the Spartan type alike in its virtues and its vices. Its 
character was more normal : it was Hellenic and not bar- 
barous : its interests were diverse : literature and art were 
practised and formed no disqualification for citizenship. 

In itself the oligarchic ideal of government was good : 
the intimate combination of a small council with the 
magistrates, acting in harmony themselves and command- 
ing the willing allegiance of their subjects, forms one of 
the strongest and most efficient constitutions that can be 
imagined. Such was the cause of Rome's greatness, such 
the foundation of the glory of Venice. But the govern- 
ment of an oligarchy, to be successful, must rest on the 
contented obedience of the excluded classes; and the 
narrower the basis of the government, the more important 
this condition becomes. 

The Greek oligarchies, to judge by the sentiment of 
Greek literature about them, rarely came near this ideal. 
Moderate oligarchies tended to become extreme, and in 
the fourth century, at least, every piece of evidence points 
to the ordinary oligarchies being narrow and oppressive. 
They were class governments and class governments of a 
particularly odious type. Governments of birth, though 
they may often prove vicious and tyrannical, are as often 
controlled by a sense of honour and by traditions of virtue. 
But a class government founded on wealth, in which 

§ 51] SUMMARY, 191 

■wealth is the aim of the citizen and the standard of privi- 
lege, tends to become a government of brute force, treating 
its subjects with harsh injustice, exploiting the many at 
the expense of the few, making every possible abuse of 
absolute power. 

Democracy at its worst is an evil tyranny : but keenly 
as the Greek writers (most of whom wrote in Athens with 
all the faults of the degenerate Athenian demos before 
their eyes) realised the evil character of democracy they 
have worse terms of condemnation for oligarchy. ' Men,' 
says Aristotle, ' who have excess of power and wealth and 
friends neither wish nor know how to be ruled.' ' A few 
men rule and base men in place of the best, for democracy 
is least base of governments.' Coixuption, treachery and 
aggrandisement are the three characteristic vices of the 
oligarch : and in the awful war of factions, in which Greek 
states were at all times engaged, the historians have no 
hesitation in putting the blame on the oligarchs. An 
oligarchy is a city of slaves and tyrants, says Aristotle : 
oligarchy makes one city into two cities, always at war 
with one another, says Plato : and the oligarchic oath, ' I 
will be ill-minded to the demos and contrive what ill I 
can,' was a declaration of relentless war, waged by every 
means, in which peace and armistice were impossible. 
Srafft? was the bane of the city state of Greece, it was 
the overthrow of the social contract ; and there is no 
doubt that if we strive to apportion the blame, the greater 
share must be assigned to the selfish greed for power and 
the sacrifice of state interests to private aggrandisement 
which characterised the oligarch. 


The oligarchic revolution at Athens: the provisional and 
the projected constitution^. 

For the study of the theory and practice of oli- 
garchic government we have no material more interesting 
or important than the accounts of the brief rule of the 
Four Hundred at Athens and of the permanent con- 
stitution which they projected. Our knowledge of the 
revolution and of the revolutionary government is based 
almost entirely on Thucydides and Aristotle'': these authors 
are not always in agreement, and while Thucydides, as a 
contemporary, is more likely to have had a better know- 
ledge of the inner workings of the conspiracy and of such 
matters as depended on hearsay, Aristotle, who used 
later historians in addition to Thucydides, probably availed 

1 The length of the foUowing appendix is due in part to the importance 
of the subject and in part to its uncertainty. The new information 
given us by Aristotle is not yet incorporated in the text-books, and I have 
therefore made a careful study of the account given by him and compared 
it throughout with Thucydides. I have derived much help from 
Professor von Wilamowitz-MoUendorff's Aristoteles und Athen ii eh. 4, 
especially from his discussion of the projected constitution. 

2 The light thrown by Lysias xx is discussed in the course of the 
Appendix. Citations of Thucydides are from Book viii and those of 
Aristotle from the Constitution of the Athenians. 


himself of documentary evidence, and is more precise in 
quoting the terms of laws and decrees". In some cases 
the two authorities supplement one another, but it must be 
admitted that their differences cannot always be reconciled. 
This is the less to be wondered at, if we consider the cir- 
cumstances of the revolution, the brief duration of the 
government and the partial fulfilment of the proposals 
made. These facts will serve to explain also the uncer- 
tainty concerning the body of the Five Thousand, which 
played so large a part in the professions of the oligarchs 
and yet was never constituted. Aristotle, moreover, gives 
us, what is entirely passed over by Thucydides, a sketch 
of the projected constitution which did not come into 
existence. As an illustration of oligarchic theory this 
scheme is of more importance than the provisional govern- 
ment of the Four Hundred, which, after all, was little 
better tha.n an organised reign of terror. 

It would be beside my purpose to study the motives 
which induced the Athenians to accept the change of 
constitution. In one aspect, however, the professions of 
the oligarchs are important. The revolution was carried 
out in form of law ; it established a close oligarchy under 
the disguise of a moderate democracy*, it was professedly 
based on the hoplite census (the ideal of many political 
thinkers^), and it assumed the pretence of a return to 
the 'ancestral' constitution °. In the distress of their 

3 On Aristotle's materials see Gilbert, Bandbuch i^ p. xxxi. 

^ See the discussion eonoeming the Five Thousand below and of. 
Ar. 29 3. 

5 See above, § 37 n. 8. 

^ See above, § 20 nn. 12, 18. It is worth noting that the democrats 
at Samos claimed that they were really maintaining the irdrptoi v6/m>i 

w. 13 


fortunes and the disappointment of their hopes the Athe- 
nians might look back with sentimental longing to the 
days of Solon and Cleisthenes, and envy the old balanced 
constitutions which existed in their time or before them'. 
The pretence, hollow as it was, was aided by the profession 
that the constitution was to be only a temporary ex- 
pedient until the end of the war^, when presumably the 
old democracy was to be restored. 

The machinery by which the change of government 
was effected may be briefly considered. Down to the 
end of the sixth century the work of reform was usually 
entrusted to a single lawgiver: in the fourth century 
the normal process of legislation required the assent of 
the assembly, the council and a large court of Nomothetae; 
there is no evidence that this practice prevailed in the 
fifth century^, and so far as we can trace, in the period 
of the Peloponnesian war, at least, important reforms 
were carried out by legislative commissions'". In 411 

(Thuo. 76 6) against the oligarchs. The same pretence was made on 
the institution of the Thirty Tyrants. (Xen. Hell, ii 3 2 ; Ar. 34 3.) 

' For Solon and Cleisthenes see Ar. 29 3. The limitation of the 
franchise went further than Solon, and in this as in other respects 
the oligarchic constitution has many resemblances to that ascribed to 
Draco in ch. 4 of Aristotle. 

^ Ar. 29 5 ?Ms av 6 iriXe/ios y. The same idea is vaguely suggested 
by Thuc. 58 3 'Athens has her life at stake, the constitution can be 
changed afterwards. ' 

* See Gilbert, Handbuch i^ p. 336 n. It is a possible inference from 
Lysias xxx 28 (o! fdv Tpbyovoi vofwOiras -gpovvTO 'Zb\oiva Kal QefuaTOK\ia 
Kol JlepLKKia) that the procedure of the sixth century was employed also 
in the fifth, and that individuals like Themistocles an^ Pericles were 
entrusted with powers of revision. 

1° The procedure in 411 b.o. is discussed in the text. On the over- 
throw of the Four Hundred vonoffirat were appointed (Thuc. 97 1). 
There is no reason for identifying them with the heliastio commission 


the formal initiative for the revolution was entrusted to a 
committee of thirty"; and after the preliminary measures 
proposed by them had been carried a hundred men were 
chosen to revise the constitution". The first proposal of 
the Thirty Commissioners ensured immunity to any one 
proposing any change in the constitution". This required 
probably the suspension not merely of the jpa^^ irapa- 
v6/j,a)v, the great safeguard against revolution, but of all 
the special laws and processes designed to protect the 
democracy". Thucydides, whose account is somewhat 
vague, implies that their proposals went no further", but 
we may accept Aristotle's account that they formally pub- 
lished the two great principles, which had already been 

of the fourth century, and from Lysias we should conclude that they 
formed a special legislative commission. (Lys. xxx 2 Nioomachus was 
chosen as tuv vSfiwv ivay pa<j>cis and held office for six years. He is 
referred to as voiMoBh-Tii. Cf. also And. i 96 where {,vviypa\l/ev is used, 
probably of a member of such a commission. ) The Thirty Tyrants were 
appointed as a legislative committee (Xen. Hell, ii 3 2 Tpi&KovTa &pdpas 
iXicrSai, ot tous Trarplovs vd/wvs ^vyypd\j/oi(n) . After the overthrow of the 
oligarchy in 403 And. i 82 refers to the appointment of five hundred 
voiioBirai. These, however, seem to have been special commissioners, for 
Lysias xxx 4, 5 shows that the revision of the different laws was divided 
between them, and he charges Nicomachus with spending four years over 
his share of the work. 

^* Ar. 29 2 corrects Thucydides 67 1, who mentions only ten ^vyypa- 
<j)€Ts, saying that twenty ^vyypa^eis were added to the ten TrpA/SouAoi. He 
is confirmed by other authorities (quoted in Dr Sandys' n. ). 

" Ar. 30 1. 

" Thuc. 67 2; Ar. 29 4. 

" The process of elaayyeKla (Ar. 29 4) was especially adapted to 
meet attempts against the democracy. If, as has been suggested, the law 
of Demophantus passed in 410 (And. i 95) was based on a law of Solon, 
the necessity of a special i9eia in 411 is explained. 

15 Thuc. 67 2 iai\veyKav o£ fifyy/jo^^s fiXXo iiiv oiSiv k.t.X. 



mooted, the abolition of pay for political services and the 
limitation of the franchise '°. These two principles carried 
with them the overthrow of the democratic constitution. 
The Thirty then proposed the election of a board of one 
hundred to draw up a register of the Five Thousand 
and to draught the new constitution". This board was 
responsible for both the provisional and the projected 
constitution '^ and the work of the Thirty Commissioners 
was limited to the enunciation of general principles. 

For this account of their proceedings we are indebted 
to Aristotle: Thucydides, on whose divergence from it I 
have commented above, here contributes some new matter. 
The changes attributed by Aristotle to the initiative of 
the Thirty Commissioners he describes vaguely as ' openly 
proposed,' and he adds to these the appointment of five 
proedri, who were to choose a hundred, each of whom 
again was to coopt three others, and the council of the 
Four Hundred constituted in this manner was to be 
entrusted with absolute authority". The appointment and 

^^ ir. 29 5 Triv irokmlav ffi^rafai' ; 30 1 oi ixiv alpeS^vres raSra (rw4- 

^' Aristotle does not positively identity the hundred appointed to 
draw up the list of citizens (29 5) with the hundred legislators (30 1). 
But I think it is probable that there was only one body of a hundred, 
oi iKarbv dvSpes without any other description are referred to several 
times, and in 30 8, 31 3 the legislators are entrusted with the duty 
of dividing the citizens into 'lots,' a duty that would naturally fall 
to the KaToXoYets. Against the identification may be urged that Aristotle 
refers to the KaraXoye'is being elected by the (pvXai, the legislators by the 
Five Thousand : but the passages may be reconciled, if we suppose that 
the Five Thousand voted by tribes. Lysias xx does not help us. The 
point is obscure and not important. 

18 Ar. 30 1; 31 1. 

19 Thuo. 67 3. 


powers of the Four Hundred must be reserved for later 
consideration : for the present we must consider whether 
the hundred mentioned by Thucydides are to be identified 
with the board of legislators mentioned by Aristotle. In 
favour of the identification we may urge the order of the 
narrative : after describing the preliminary proposals of 
the Commissioners both authors tell us of the general prin- 
ciples on which the government was to be based, both then 
refer to the appointment of a hundred men. They are in 
conflict, however, as to the method of their appointment 
and the purpose for which they were appointed. The 
first discrepancy I discuss below : with regard to the 
second Thucydides describes the hundred as forming a 
fourth part of the council of government, Aristotle assigns 
to the hundred legislators certain specific duties and 
implies that part at least of their work was carried into 
effect before the Four Hundred were constituted'". If we 
can reconcile the divergent statements about the mode of 
their election, there is nothing which precludes us from 
supposing that the Hundred Commissioners of Aristotle 
were afterwards incorporated in the council of the Four 
Hundred. There is every ground of probability for 
supposing that the promoters of the revolution would be 
anxious to pack both the legislative commission and the 
ruling council with their own friends and supporters". 

^^ If Aristotle's account of the establishment be accepted it would 
seem that Thucydides in his nanative anticipates the appointment of the 
Four Hundred. 

^ Professor Goodhart in his edition of Thucydides p. xxiv suggested 
this argument. He identified the hundred mentioned by Thucydides 
with the hundred legislators of Aristotle, and he pointed out that 
Polystratus, one of the KaraKoyets, was also a member of the Four 
Hundred (Lys. xx 1). It must be noticed that Polystratus was only 


They were establishing a government of false pretences ; 
they must avoid at all hazards the effective fulfilment of 
their promises, and in order that the active organs of 
government should aid this project, they must be sure 
of their support. It was therefore to the interest of the 
conspirators to limit the active participation in the govern- 
ment to as small a circle as possible. There was always a 
danger of inconvenient suggestions that a constitution in 
accordance with the programme which they avowed should 
supersede the revolutionary oligarchy. They could not 
afford to run the risk of internal dissension, if it could be 
prevented: they must avoid, if possible, the presence of 
opponents on their commissions and councils and to this end 
control the elections. We may therefore regard it as pro- 
bable, though absolute proof is lacking, that the Hundred 
Commissioners were afterwards included in the Council''^. 
The duties of the Hundred were twofold ^l They were 
to draw up a list of the Five Thousand, who were to form 
the citizen body; they were also to draft a constitution in 
accordance with the principles already accepted. It is 
scarcely to be doubted that the oligarchs, who had for 
many months been working for the revolution, had their 
scheme of government fully prepared, and that the pro- 
jected constitution was in as forward a state as the 
provisional government, which they adopted ''^ But the 

a member of tlie /SouX^ for eight days. He was probably elected as a 
substitute both as KaraXoyeis (§ 9) and (SouXeur^s. 

^^ A higher limit of age (forty years Ar. 29 5) was required for the 
KaraXoyeis than for the council (thirty years Ar. 31 1), but many mem- 
bers of the council must have been over forty. 

^ I assume the identification suggested in n. 17. 

^ Apart from the general probability and the brief rule of the Four 
Hundred, which would have allowed little time for drawing up a 


projected constitution involved changes too radical to be 
immediately accepted, and it probably seemed easier to 
adopt for the immediate present a temporary system, more 
in accord with existing institutions^^ 

The place taken or intended to be taken by the Five 
Thousand in the constitution, is of the utmost importance 
to our understanding of the purpose of the conspirators. 
The pretence of entrusting them with power formed a 
cloak to disguise the absolute character of the govern- 
ment^^; it conciliated the support of the moderates, who 
wished to make them a real and decisive force in the 
state"'. It was an element of compromise, which rendered 
easier the acceptance of the government. But the extreme 
oligarchs who got power into their hands did not intend 
that the Five Thousand should be a reality, at least in the 

constitution, Aristotle (c. 30) describes the projected constitution before 
the provisional government (c. 31). His narrative (31 1) implies that 
the two were drawn up together, and in the terms of the provisional 
government there is a reference to the written, provisions of the 
permanent constitution (31 2 t6 6^ Xotirbv ttjv atpetny Trouur6ai to&tuv ttjv 
PovXijV KaTh tcl yeypafi^j/a). 

^ It is possible that the two schemes corresponded to the aims of two 
different parties. The extremists no doubt were content with the 
provisional government. (Cf. Von Wilamowitz-MoUendorff op. cit. p. 116 
' the definite constitution depended on the army at Samos. Antiphon 
and Phryniohus were in no hurry.') It is a possible inference from Ar. 
31 2 that the provisional constitution was only to last for a year; see n. 

^ Thuo. 72 1, 86 3 the envoys of the oligarchy lay stress on the 
Five Thousand. Cf. Pint. Ale. 26 oi irwra/furxiXioi \ey6iJ,evot, TerpaKbaioL 
Si ovres. Ar. 29 1 gives the government the name it usually bears ij 
^tI rtav T€TpaK0(ri(i3v ToKiTeia. 

^ Thuc. 89 2 Therameues and his party consider roiis vevrauaxMovs 
ipycp Kal firi 6v6fiaTi xPV^^i- airodeiKifijvaL. The oligarchy was overthrown 
by the pretence of entrusting power to them Thuc. 97 1. 


provisional government, and hence no list of them was ever 
published'*. We are therefore left in perplexity about the 
constitution of this body. We are not told whether it 
was to contain a fixed number of citizens, or if so, how the 
Five Thousand were to be chosen from the larger number 
of the qualified. 

It is thought by some that the number of Five Thou- 
sand was intended to serve as a fictitious description of all 
qualified for the duties of citizenship, as it certainly did 
on the overthrow of the oligarchy™, and we learn from 
Lysias that when at last the Four Hundred were com- 
pelled to draw up the list, the register contained nine 
thousand names™. But there are other indications in the 
accounts of Thucydides and Aristotle, which make it 
probable that the oligarchs, whatever their intentions, 
proposed to limit power to a fixed number". We lack all 

28 See n. 33. 

29 Thuo. 97 1 ; Ar. 38 1. 

'" Lys. XX 13. We cannot form any certain inference from this. The 
Four Hundred were compelled by the revolt of the moderates to consent 
to make the Five Thousand a reality. The list was drawn up in a hurry 
and the nine thousand may have represented the full number of the 
qualified from whom the Five Thousand were to be selected. 

2' Thuc. 65 3 says that not more than five thousand were to be 
admitted, Ar. 29 5 not less. If we accept these statements, they 
exclude the possibility of all the hopUtes being admitted. Moreover had 
this been so there would have been no need for a special list, as the roll 
of hoplites might have been used (see n. 35 below), but Thuc. 92 11 
implies that a special list was required. In the projected constitution, 
in which the Five Thousand were to play a most important part, the 
evidence points, I think, to a fixed number. If the number were 
indefinite there would be no reason for giving them the title of the Five 
Thousand (after the overthrow of the oligarchy it was a survival). I 
think we may conclude that an ' oligarchy of fixed number ' was intended, 
on which see § 38 above. 


evidence to determine by what method the Five Thousand 
were to be selected"*. It is probable enough that this 
point was purposely left vague and undecided. 

No attempt was made to draw up a list of the Five 
Thousand until the Four Hundred were all but over- 
thrown"; at the same time, Aristotle mentions them as 
if they were really constituted and taking action **. The 
explanation seems to lie in a confusion between the 
citizens qualified to belong to the body and the actual 
register of Five Thousand, which was never published. 
The Five Thousand were to be those ' best able to serve 
the state in person and property,' that is they must 
belong to one of the first three classes, who were liable to 
hoplite service. For the immediate purposes of govern- 
ment old institutions had to be adapted, and on the few 
occasions on which the leaders of the revolution left 
anything to the decision of the citizens they allowed the 
right of voting to all who possessed the hoplite quali- 
fication, that is, to all on the roll of hoplites'^. These 

^ Of the different methods by which the selection might be made 
(see § 38 nn. 21 — 24) we find no trace in our narratives. It would be 
possible to lay stress on the definition in Ar. 29 5 (rots duvaTardTois k.t.\.) 
and to infer from the use of the superlative that the five thousand 
wealthiest hoplites were to be chosen. The phrase seems stereotyped, 
see § 36 n. 6. 

^ Thuo. 92 11; 93 2 ; Ar. 31 3. Polystratus began the work of 
drawing up the list eight days before the overthrow (Lys. xx 14). 

■^ Ar. 80 1; 31 2; 32 1. 

** The expedient was so natural, that this conjecture may be accepted. 
The KardXoyos contained the names of the hoplites of the first three 
classes, arranged by tribes (Gilbert, Handbuch V p. 353). The 9^ej 
even if they served as hoplites were not included in the KaTd\oyos (Thuo. 
vi 43). The election by the tribesmen (Ar. 31 1 ; Lys. xx 2) meant elec- 
tion by the hoplites on the roll of each tribe, i.e. by the 'Five Thousand' 
voting by tribes. 


did in certam cases exercise the powers nominally reserved 
for the Five Thonsand* and as the number voling may 
easily have fallen short of that number" Aristotle speaks 
carelessly as if they were membeis of that body. 

To the Five Thousand, he says, was entrusted the 
appointment of the hundred commissioners", and to them 
apparently the preUminaiy choice of candidates for the 
council of Four Hundred was left". Aristotle does not 
tell us how the final choice was to be made, and we may 
perhaps supplement his account by the narratdve of 
Thucydides and suppose that the method of cooptation 
described by him" was combined with a preliminary 
selection by the Five Thousand. In any case we must 
assume that the popular election was a mere form, in 
some way controlled in the interests of the oligarchs, 
who had rendered opposition dangerous by terrorism and 

When the Four Hundred was once constituted, little 
more was heard of the Five Thousand". The provisional 
government thus assumed the form of an extreme oli- 
garchy and combined two specially oligarchic features, the 

^ Besides the instances in n. 35 cf. Thnc. 93 1 where the hoplites 
constitute themselves an assembly. 

^ Thnc. 72 1, the assembly larely indnded as many as 5000. 

33 301. 

^ 31 1 ^ TpoKpiruv ods S^ ikuwrai cl 0iiX^Tat; see n. 35. 

« 67 3. 

^ Except for the i>oweis of election entrosted to them, which I have 
already discussed, the Five Thonsand took no part in the Constitatioii. 
in the fiist proposal th^ were lepresented as a sovereign power (Ar. 29 5 
■Hit S' SKKtiv ToXirebv irirpi^nu tasar k.t.X. ; cf. Lys. zx 13) ; bnt Thucy- 
dides implies that they were subordinate to the ^vX^ (67 3 robs -rem-a- 
Kurx/Movs ^vXXSyew awirtta adrot: Sox^. In the projected constitution 
they were entrusted with all powers of government. 


sovereignty of the council*^ and an executive magistracy 
with absolute power*^ The council was not qualified to 
change the laws", but in other respects its powers were 
unlimited. It had the whole of the state business in its 
control *^ It was to appoint the magistrates and to call 
them to account. The generals had important powers 
but they were chosen by the council", doubtless from 
its own members'", the other magistrates were not to 
hold ofiice more than once, though no such restriction was 

*^ Thuc. 67 3 &pxeiv oTTj; Sv Apiffra yiyviitrKtiKnv aiTOKpdropas; Ar. 31 1. 

^ Ar. 31 2, tlie generals were to be aiTOKp&ropes and to consult with 
the jSouX-f) at discretion. 

^ The laws made irepl tGiv irdKmKaii were to be observed without 
change (Ar. 31 1);; i.e. the laws of the constitution, which had been 
drawn up by the legislative commission, were to be observed by the 
provisional government, i.e. it was to rule iierk vS/wv, 

^ A few details are given in Ar. 31 1. Dr Sandys in his n. to Ar. 33 
1 calls attention to C.I. A. iv 3 179 d in which the fiovX^ authorizes certain 
expenditure. Nothing is said about the law-courts : the popular juries 
had of course gone with the abolition of pay ; probably judicial powers 
were divided between the executive and the council. 

^ The account of the election of generals in Ar. 81 2 is confused. 
Apparently three occasions are referred to and a different process 
prescribed for each : (1) for the immediate present ten generals are to be 
chosen from all the Five Thousand (i.e. as the revolution took place in a 
state of war, it was necessary to appoint without delay before the provi- 
sional constitution came into force generals superseding the former 
board, most of whom were at Samos) : (2) as soon as the /SouXi? is 
appointed it is to choose ten men with full powers after a review of the 
troops under arms (these must be the generals ; the method of election 
would exclude those with the fleet at Samos) : these were to hold office 
for a year, and (3) for the future (ri Xolttov i.e. in the projected constitu- 
tion) the election is to take place in accordance with the conditions pre- 

^ The inference, which is probable, is confirmed by the fact that 
Theramenes (Thuc. 92 9), Aristarchus (98 1) and Alexicles (94 4), described 
as arpaT'riyhs av ix rijs 6\iyapxi-^s, were all generals. 


placed on the generals or the members of the council**. 
We do not learn any other details of the constitution. 
It is possible that the five proedri mentioned by Thucy- 
dides acted as presidents of the council*^ Thucydides 
also mentions the appointment of prytaneis™ whom we 
may take to be a standing committee. The provisional 
government, thus constituted, entrusted absolute and un- 
limited power to the Council of Four Hundred, who soon 
established a reign of terror", which led to dissensions 
within their own ranks and finally to their overthrow. 

And so the government, which was intended as a 
temporary expedient to prepare the way for a definite 
and elaborate constitution, was swept away, and the pro- 
jected scheme, a sketch of which is preserved by Aristotle ^^ 
was never realised. The scheme is of great interest, as 
an instance of oligarchic invention, but it throws little 
light on actual oligarchies, for it is unlike any known 
constitution and its character is fantastic and unpractical. 

^ At. 31 3. 

^ The title of these officers and the analogy of the five presidents in 
the projected constitution (Ar. 30 4) makes this probable. If the proedri 
were the leading spirits of the revolution, as the part ascribed to them by 
Thucydides 67 8 implies, I should be inclined to identify them with 
Pisander, Antiphon, Phrynichus, Therameues and possibly Aristarchus. 
It is characteristic of Thucydides not directly to mention the names 
of the proedri, but in ch. 68, immediately after relating their appoint- 
ment, he proceeds, as if by a natural association of ideas, to describe 
the chief agents of the revolution (Pisander, Antiphon, Phrynichus and 
Theramenes). In 90 1 Aristarchus is associated with Phrynichus, Anti- 
phon and Pisander as one of the leaders of the oligarchs. 

'» 70 1. 

^^ Thuc. 70 1 ^vefiov Kara Kpdros t'i)v tt^Klv. 

*2 0. 30. The projected is distinguished from the provisional govern- 
ment by phrases such as els tot 'Konhv xpi^rac (30 3, cf. 31 2), eU rbv 
fiiXKovra xp^vov (31 1), eh rbv &Wov xpl>vop (31 3) . 


Its most important principle is the rotation of political 
duties'". The Five Thousand qualified for citizenship 
were to be divided into four ' lots" ' and those over thirty 
years of age in each lot were to serve as a council*^ 
for the year while the rest were excluded from almost all 
the duties of government^'. From the council thus consti- 
tuted, which would contain about a thousand members*', 
all the more important magistrates (about a hundred 

5' This we Bee clearly in the aoeoimt of Aristotle; there are indi- 
cations in Thucydides also that the principle was put forward by the 
oligarchs. The envoys at Samos assert (86 3) tGiv irevTaKurxiMt-'i' on 
Tr&vm iv T<J iiipei iieBi^ovaiv (sc. tSv irpaytidTUv), a passage which only 
becomes comprehensible in the Ught of the projected constitution. On 
the eve of their overthrow the Four Hundred promise (93 2) to appoint 
the Five Thousand Kal ix Toinw iv fiipei y av rots TrevTaKurxMois Sokj 
TOiis rerpaKoHovs iaeadai. For the principle of rotation we may compare 
the 'Draconian Constitution' in Aristotle (4 3) and Ar. Fol. quoted in 
§ 38 n. 22. 

^ Ar. 30 3 jSouXiis Si iroiTjaaj. T^Trapas Ik ttjs rpiidas rijs dpr)iiivqi els rbv 
\oi,irbv ■xji>ti<">v, KoX Toiriav rb "Kax"" f^^pos ^ovKeieiv, vet/juu Si Kal tovs AWovs 
Trpbs T^v X^^tp iKdcTTjv. roi/s S' ixarbv dvSpas Staveifiai (r0as re aOrovs Kal rovs 
dWovs T^TTapa pt^prj ujs IcraiTara Kal SiaKKTjpiaaai, Kal els ^viavrbp ^ovXeieiv, 
In this passage the hundred men are to divide aU the Five Thousand 
(tows &\Xovs as opposed to (r<pS.s airois) into font equal lots (X^feis); in 
each of these lots the citizens over thirty years of age are to form a |8ouXi}v 
for a year; those under thirty years of age (described by rovs SWous 
in opposition to & ttjs iiXidas t^s elpiipAvTis) are to be included in the 
X7}|«s. Of. also 31 3 (this passage is difficult and probably corrupt). 

*^ This is the necessary inference from the passage quoted in the last 
note. Dr Sandys in his commentary assumes that there were to be 'four 
councils of 400 each'; I can find no justification for this assumption. 
The whole scheme of government was directed to the concentration of 
power in the hands of a large §ov\fi, superseding both council and 

^ They would be eligible for the minor offices of state, which were 
filled from outside the /SouXi}. 

^' Each X^fis would be a fourth part of 5000; the jSouX^, after ex- 


in number^) were to be chosen by a process of double 
election, while the minor magistracies were to be ap- 
pointed from outside the council by lot. In case of need 
each member of the council might call in another citizen, 
himself qualified for the council, to take part in its de- 
liberations. Regular sittings were prescribed : the archons 
were to call the council together, and five members chosen 
by lot, with one of their number as actual president, were 
to superintend the voting and the order of business. 
Lastly attendance at the council was enforced by a fine^'. 
To the council thus constituted all powers of govern- 
ment were entrusted : there was no other power of state 
except the magistrates, and they were chosen from and 
by the council and were probably responsible to it. Of 
the duties of the council few details are given : nothing 
is said of the law-courts, but special mention is made 
of the control of finance™. The system of divided control 
and responsibility which ruled in the democratic exchequer 
was to be abolished, and the council was to have authority, 
aided by all the important financial officers, although the 
Hellenotamiae, who were actually on duty, were not to 
attend its- meetings"'. 

eluding the members between 20 and 30, would probably number some- 
thing less than a thousand. 

^^ Ar. 30 2. The magistrates mentioned there would be more than 

^ These details are derived from Aristotle o. 30. 

^ Ar. 30 4 ^ou\e6e(r6a.L S^ -g av doKy ai/Tots dpLffra ^^eiv wept re twv 

^ Von Wilamowitz-MoUendorff op. cit. p. 119 explains the apparent 
inconsistency in the mention of the iXK-qvorap^iai. in 30 2 by the assumption 
that the duties of the Hellenotamiae were divided between the different 
members of the board, and those acting as treasurers were not on the 


The special dangers of the democratic system were 
recognised and an attempt made to remedy them. The 
division of power between council and assembly was swept 
away. The new council was a compromise between the 
two : but as a deliberative body it could only have proved 
helpless and unwieldy. Another democratic defect, the 
separation of the executive from the sovereign power, was 
remedied by the inclusion of all magistrates in the council, 
while the principle of rotation secured the active par- 
ticipation in the government of all citizens in turn, and 
prevented the continuation of military office in the same 
hands. In its blend of oligarchic and democratic ideas we 
recognise the work of a somewhat fantastic theorist, and 
we may reasonably doubt whether his paper constitution 
would have worked with any measure of success. 

But alike in the provisional and in the projected 
schemes of government we may notice certain ruling 
oligarchic principles: the exclusion of the lower classes 
from all political rights; the abolition of pay; the con- 
centration of power in the hands of a council, entrusted 
with sovereign authority, and the creation of a strong 
executive appointed by and from the ruling council. 

jSouX-i) for the time, in order that their responsibility might be enforced. 
It is therefore unnecessary to omit itai iWrivoranlas. 


[The large figures refer to sections, the small figures to notes, the 
letters A, B, C to the Appendixes.'] 

Age as an oligarchic qualification 
34 6; 4l24ff. 

Agriculture in Sparta 50 17 ; in 
Thespiae 50 20 

Ancestral Constitution 20 12 ; C 6, 7 

Antipater 36 15 

Areopagus, Council of 41' 4 ; 42 3 ; 
44 4, 14, 18 ; 45 1, 3, 4; 48 6, 10 

Aristocracy 6 ; and commerce 7 i ; 
transition to, from monarchy 23 ; 
transition from, to oligarchy 25 ; 
of conquest 15, 16 ; of birth and 
land 30 ; of ' original settlers ' 
81 ; based on conquest 32 ; of 
the tingly family 33 ; of heads 
of families 34 ; of fixed number 
38 ; executive in 39 7 ; assembly 
in 39 8 ; general character of 51 

Aristotle, his classification of con- 
stitutions 2 24 ft. ; his division of 
oligarchies 29 ; Pol. Ath. 21 4 
emended B 13 ft. 

Assembly, in Homeric constitution 
22 14 ; in oligarchy 39 9 ; 47 

Assessment in oligarchies 36 3, 7 ft. 

Assimilation of constitutions 16 

Athens, infiuence on constitutions 
of other states 16 4; 18 U; 26 i; 
formation of united state at 23 
7, 8 ; transition to aristocracy 24 ; 
tribal organisation of A, B 

Autonomy, an ohgarchic principle 
49 5—10 

Birth, a qualification in an aristo- 
cracy 30 

Gassander 36 17 

Cecrops A 6 

Character of oligarchies and aris- 
tocracies 51 

Citizen, definition of 4 2 

Citizenship, how regulated in oli- 
garchies 36 6 ft. 

Class divisions 50 ; in Attica A 20 ; 
in Homer 22 3 

Classification of constitutions ch. i 

Cleisthenes, reforms of 25 31 ; B 

Commerce, and aristocracies 7 1 ; 25 
14 ; in fourth century 27 S ; and 
oligarchies 50 17 ft. 

Colonies 13, 17 ; special forms of 
government in 17 i ; founders of 

Committees of Council 46 

Conquest, aristocracy of 16 

Council, in Homeric constitution 
22 ; in aristocracy 24 ; special 
organ of oligarchic government 
39 6 ; constitution of 44 ; powers 
of 45 ; 47 5 ; subdivisions of 46 

Cycle of government 21 1 — 3 

Decarchies 35 3 

Belian Confederacy, constitutions 

in 18 4 ; 26 7, 8 
Democracy, claims of 8 ; character 

of 9 ; principles of 9 l ft. ; 25 26; 

triumph of in fourth century 27 

Draco, his constitution 25 21 ; 37 
6 ; 41 20 



Dynasty 35 

Economic forces and constitutional 

change IS 
Equality, democratic idea of 9 5 ff. 
Exposure as a means of limiting 

population 30 5 

Factions 15 9 

Fines in oligarchies 41 19 

Five Thousand, The, 38 20; C 28 ff. 

Four Hundred, The, i 5; 35 13; 

38 15; 414,11,22; 423,8; 43 15; 

44 5; 48 12; C 

Government, elements and functions 
of, 39 1, 2, 3 

Helots 50 1 ff. 

Herodotus, on constitutions 1 7, 8 

Heroic monarchy 22 

Hoplites ruling class in polity 5 6 ; 
a minority of state 5 9 ; consti- 
tution of 37, 4; 5 

Industry a disqualification for 

citizenship 12 3 
Intensification of constitutions 27 

1, 2,'3; 29 7 
Ion A 10 
Isyllus 27 13 

Judicial affairs, in oligarchies 48 

Kant quoted 2 30 

King, powers of in Homeric con- 
stitution 22 2, 9 ; decline of power 

Kingship, a form of aristocracy B 4 ; 
a life magistracy 3 6 

Knights, constitution of the 37 l 

Land, a qualification in an aris- 
tocracy 30 1 

Lawgivers 20 ; C 9 

Legendary history of Attica A 

Legislation, rare in Greek consti- 
tutions 48 

Lot, in democracy 9 13, 14 ; in oli- 
garchies 41 6, 7 


Macedon indifferent to constitu- 
tions 27 12 

Magistrates, in oligarchies and de- 
mocracies 40 1, 4, 7 ; election of 
in oligarchies 41 1 fi. ; tenure and 
responsibility of 42 ; 48 

Military changes affecting constitu- 
tion 15 

Military organisation in aristo- 
cracies of conquest 32 8 

Military service a condition of 
citizenship 11 3 

Mixed constitutions 2 40 ff. 

Money, invention of, cause of oli- 
garchy 25 13 

Montesquieu on Aristotle's classi- 
fication 2 32 ; on equality 8 6 

Moral terms applied in a political 
sense 1 3, 4, 5; 6 18; 10 2; 25 

Napoleon III quoted 2 31 
Nobles in Homeric constitution 
22 2, 5, 6, 7 

Oligarchy in a general sense 3 ; in 
a special sense 4 ; basis of 8 ; 
character of 10 ; 51 ; material 
claims of 11 ; moral claims of 
12 ; transition to, from aristo- 
cracy 25 ; varieties of 28 ; Aris- 
totle's divisions of 29 ; of wealth 
36 ; of the Knights and Hoplites 
37 ; of fixed number 38 ; as- 
sembly in 39 9 

Peloponnesian Confederacy, consti- 
tutions in 18 6 

Persian dominion, influence of, on 
constitutions 27 8 

Philosophers, influence of, on con- 
stitutions 20 7 ff . ; attitude of, to 
ordinary constitutions 27 3 

Pindar on constitutions 1 2 

Plato, his views of politics 2 8 ; the 
Republic 2 9 ; the Laws 2 14 ; the 
Politicus 2 20 

Polity 5 

Population, questions cf, involved 
in aristocracies 30 3 




Qualification for office in oligar- 
chies 41 14 ff. 

Religion and constitutions 15; 25 ad 

Serfs 50 2 ff . 
Social power determining form of 

government 14 3 
Solon, his reforms B la ; his system 
of assessment 36 3, 7; his con- 
stitution 41 12, 16 
Sparta, her constitution defined 3 16 
ft.; influence of, on constitution 
of other states 16 4; 18; 19 2; 26 
1, 6, 8, 9 ; decline of 27 ; popu- 
lation of 30 3 ; character of 51 
Subject class in oligarchies 50 2, 

Theognis 25 7, 16 ff. 

Theseus A 19 

Thetis in Homer 22 4 

Thirty, The, 35 2, 13 ; 38 16 ; 41 4, 
11, 13; 44 6; 48 3; 49 15 

Thousand, constitutions of a 38 
3 ff. ; in Plato 38 17 

Thucydides as a political philo- 
sopher 1 11 

Tribal communities 21 ; 23 9, 10 ; 

Tribe and city, conflict between 
21; 23 9, 10; 25 27 ff. 

Tribes, in Athens A, B ; Dorian 49 
1, 3; local in Sparta 49 S 

Tyranny 3 3; 25 22 ff. ; analogy of 
oligarchy to 35 9 

Union of states, resisted by Sparta, 
49 5ff. 

Village settlements, account of in 
Aristotle 21 ; in Attica A 5 

Wealth, the principle of Oligarchy 
4; 7; 36 1 


Abdera 43 23 

Acragas 38 8, 26 ; 47 4 ; 49 3 

Aetna 38 18 

ApoUonia 31 5, 7 

Argos 26 2 ; 27 10 

Athens, see General Index under 

Athens, Areopagus, Four Hundred, 

Thirty, etc. 

Boeotia 26 3 
Byzantium 81 8 ; 50 6 

Chalcedon 43 23; 46 8 

Chalcis 36 12 ; 37 2 ; 41 28 

Chios 18 4; 2711; 33 3; 46 3; 48 13 

Cnidus 34 3 ; 44 12 ; 45 5 

Colophon 35 13 ; 38 9 

Corcyra 36 6, 21 ff. ; 43 23 ; 46 5 

Corinth 18 l ; 25 23, 25 ; 33 7 ; 36 

24 ff.; 43 1,2; 443; 462; 47 14; 

48 7 ; 50 6, 24 
Cos 18 2 ; 49 3 
Crete 16 3 ; 30 5; 32 2, 7, 9 ; 41 2, 

10; 44 15, 18, 19; 45 6 ; 47 14 ; 50 

4, 5, 6, 8 ; 51 
Croton 38 6 ; 43 8 ; 44 7 
Cyme 37 2 ; 38 lO, 26 ; 47 14 
Cyrene 31 9 ; 43 11 

Elis 25 34 ; 30 10 ; 32 5 ; 35 U ; 43 

5, 23 ; 44 1], 18, 20; 49 14 
Ephesus 33 3 

Epidamnus 43 4 ; 44 9 ; 50 22, 23 
Epidaurus 25 24 ; 27 12 ; 38 14 ; 44 

14 ; 49 3 ; 50 6 
Epirus 33 6 
Eretria 37 2 ; 46 5 
Brythrae 33 



Gortyn 48 15 

Heraclea 34 3; 38 11, 26; 43 u; 48 
U; 50 3,6 

Istros 34 3 

Larisa 32 3 

Lesbos 18 4 

Leuoas 30 10, 11 

Locri Epizephyrii 38 5 ; 43 6 ; 48 3 

Ldoris (East) 30 9 ; 34 4 ; 38 4, 26 ; 

43 4 
Looris (West) 43 12 ; 48 17; 49 6 

Magnesia 87 2 

Mantinea 27 10 

Massalia 34 3; 38 2, 13, 23, 24; 43 

14; 44 7; 46 4; 48 3 
Megalopolis 38 19 ; 49 13 
Megara 18 l ; 24 3 ; 25 7, 14, 25 ; 26 

2 ; 36 19, 20 ; 43 7 ; 46 8 
Miletus 18 9 ; 314; 33 2 ; 43 8 
Mitylene 27 n ; 33 4 ; 35 13 ; 43 8 

Nanpactus 48 16 

Fharsalus 32 3 

Ehegium 38 7, 26 
Bhodes 27 ii 

Samos 31 3 

Sioyou 25 25, 32 ; 27 lo 

Sparta 3 15 ff.; 6 25 ff. ; 30 3, 7, 12 

32 7, 8, 11 ; 41 2, 9 ; 44 10, 17, 18 

45 8; 47 15 ff.; 48 6, 8 ; 49 Iff. 

50 1 fi.; 51; see also General Index 
Syracuse 3 8; 31 2; 38 12; 48 3; 

50 6 

Taientum 43 li 

Tegea 27 lO 

Tenedos 43 8 

Thebes 27 9, 12 ; 30 5, 8 ; 32 4 ; 35 

11; 36 18; 48 7; 50 18 
Thera 31 5 ; 32 2; 43 11 ; 49 3 
Thespiae 50 20 
Thessaly 32 3 ; 33 5 ; 35 10 ; 49 6 ; 

50 3, 6, 8, 21 
Thurii 35 6 


deivavTCU 31 4 

alo-t/jLvdrai. 46 8 

alavfxviiTris 20 3 

dfiirfi/Moves 44 23 

dvaKTCS 22 2 

airiXKa 47 15 fi. 

df)£Ti} 6 7 ff. ; 29 13 ; 32 u 

dpia-TivSrjv 29 13 

dpurTOKparla 3 11, 13; 6; 27 3; 29 13 

aprvvot. 44 22 

^A.pX.O'i-O'ViXKTiBai. 33 8 

dpx'i 28 3 

dtfxifJLtiaTat 50 6 

^avamla 12 13 ; 50 18 

poffiKeis 22 2, 7 ; 23 3, 6 ; 24 1, 4 

BaaMdai 33 8 

ya/M6poi 31 2 

yevv^Tou B 4, 8 ff. 

yivos 22 6 ; 25 27, 31 ; B 3 ff. 

yipovTes 44 17, 19 

yepovffla 44 17, 19 

yeii/wpoi A 21 ; 48 3 

dafuiapyoi 43 11, 12 
d7jf/.Lovpyoi A 21 
SIkcu dird ffvp,p6\uv 48 3, 17 
Siva/us 4, 8 ; 35 7 
dwacyrela 3 12, 13 ; 32 3 ; 35 
Swards 35 7 

etXwTes 50 1, 3, 4, 6, 7 
eKevBepla 9 2—4 ; 12 17 
iwieiKeU 6 12 



iiTLTriSeios 18 8 

ewo/xia 40 6 

^iwaTpLSai 23 7, 8 ; A 21 

eiiraf io 40 6 

^(popoi 41 2, 10, 11 ; 42 6; 43 9, 11 

^a/uojpyoi 44 20 

eiixuTTis 48 5 
BeiTfwd^Tai 43 23 
e^s 22 4 

iTTTreh 23 5 

KOToXoveis C 17, 21, 22 
K\apuiTai 50 8 
kXtjpos 30 6 
ffoi'fTrofics 50 6 
/(6cr/ioi 41 2, 10 ; 43 10 
Kvv6(pa\ot 50 6 

Xijfeis C 54, 57 

Mapiai/Surai 50 6 
pwipTac 50 6 

j-i/M/ua 6 26, 28; 32 11 

vofioffirai C 9, 10 

vono(pi\aKes 42 6; 43 19, 20, 21, 24 

SKiyapx^a 3 10 
o/xtyyctXaKTes B 8 
dpyeCives B 8, 9, 10 

TraiSelo 6 24 ff. 
ircudepaffTla 30 5 
TTiiT/ja 25 27 ; B 15 ff. 
ir&rpaeev B 13 ff. 
Trec^trrat 50 3, 6 
ireploiKOL 50 1, 2, 6, 8, 13 
T\ovTOKpaTia 3 13 
TrAXeis A 7 

iroXiTcia 3 7, 9 ; 5 ; 27 3 
iroXirevfia 28 2 
TToKirris 4 2 

7rp6j3ouXoi 43 19 ; 46 1, 5 
irp68iKOL 46 5 
wpdeSpoi C 49 
irpvTaveta A 8 
irpOravts 43 8 

O'rda'ts 51 
(rvyypa.<p€ts C 11 
ffi57/cX7;ros 47 4 
(7vv45piov 38 26 
(TwoiKKTfio! 23 7 ; 

A 19 

Ti/ioKpaHa. 3 13 ; 5 8; 62 
TipioSxoi 38 23 ; 44 21 

(pparpla B 4 
0i;Xai A 14, 15; B 
(piXapxoi 44 9, 24 
0uXoj8a(rtXei5s A 14 ff. 

wjSo/ 49 5 








"As a clear summary of what has been recently written and con- 
jectured on this most important period of Greek history, Mr Whibley's 
book has certainly no rival in English. It shows a sobriety of judgment 

and a power of stating evidence clearly and estimating its value 

His book, therefore, is one which no student of Greek history can 
afford to neglect." — Guardian. 

"An interesting contribution to English historical scholarship." — 
Classical Review. 

"A careful and conscientious piece of work." — English Historical 

" Mr Whibley's essay is well arranged ; he states his points with 
precision, and writes soberly and without affectation." — Saturday Review. 

" Mr Whibley's treatment of the subject shows knowledge and good 
sense." — Oxford Magazine. 


"It is painstaking, thorough, modest and unassuming in tone, not 
controversial, and interesting. He has thoroughly mastered his materials ; 
hia argument is well and clearly arranged, and he has got results which 
appear to be origiaal and are of considerable interest." — Camhridge 

"Es ist eine gesohiokte und gescheidte historischpolitische Studie, 
welche eine vortreffliche Uebersicht liber die Dinge und ihren inneren 
Zusammenhang gewahrt und dabei im Einzeluen mancherlei Neues 
und Beachtenswerthes vorbringt. Die gewohnliche Soliditat englischer 
gelehrter Werke verleugnet sich hier ebenso wenig, wie der gesunde 
Menschenverstand, der durch keinerlei aussere Eiioksichten beengte 
politische BUck und die Kentniss eines freien Staatslebens, welche die 
ernsthaften historischen Werke unserer Vettem jenseits des Canals in der 
Eegel auszeichnen. "—it^terariscftes Gentralblatt. 

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